Christmas and New Year's customs in Corfu
Written by Spiros Laskaris on Wednesday December 21, 2022
Corfu island -
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Corfu wore her goodies and Santa Claus spread his costume to the most central cannon of the city, the old town so that when she wears it she was light and fresh from the rainwater, as tradition wants.
Spianiada Square, known to everyone as Liston Square, has filled thousands of bright lamps, while the Corfiots already hung from tall windows, heavy fabric red coats of arms with golden chevrons.
Venetian color and flavors have Christmas festivals in Corfu, with mores and customs perpetuated without altering the identity of the Ionian Lady.
Festivals have begun in the beginning of December, with St. Spyridon's feast opening the Christmas curtain every year.
Over the years, many of the Christmas customs in Corfu have been lost, some of them have been transformed while new ones made their appearance. Influences from foreign customs and habits and the rapid technological development of recent years have played a decisive role in the changes made. However, there are a few who even nowadays maintain many of them in the villages and in the city of Corfu. Many times older people are narrated with nostalgia to younger stories since Christmas decades and thanks to them valuable information about them.
In the mood of the holidays the locals were entering early when they were on the market. Fruit shops and grocery stores were decorated in the early days of December. There were a few mobile shops that set up on the eve of the holidays on Porta Rialia Street and in the arches of Saint Antony church. Their goods had them on low carts and were mainly selling grocery and nuts.
Interestingly, according to older stories, in heavy and frequent rainfall, shopkeepers stayed under the arches to protect themselves. There they made rough choirs and chanted "Your birth Christ our God" in a Corfu manner.
About the decoration of the house is flooded with red color and the Christmas tree was the main decoration but the Corfiots also gave their own touch. They were decorated with gold nuts, fruits, very cotton in tufts.
On the walls were hanging sea woods with gold and silver ribbons, while in the tall houses hung elaborate small fairies and all gave a separate Christmas note.
Christmas Corfu Carols
The worship events of the Orthodox Church were an integral part of the holidays for the locals.After the evening sequence, everyone was gathered on the piazza and with the joyous sounds of the bells of the churches and exchanged greetings with each other.
At the same time, there were many companions of those who caught the carols in the Corfu manner with the accompaniment of violin, guitar and mandolin.
In the old days, small groups of philharmonic musicians went from shop to shop and from house to house to play the small established music track.
The prevailing Corfu carols that caught them started as follows: " Her good clothes is wearing the East and the West are boasting …". These carols come from the Middle Corfu.
Another version of them, in lyrics written by scholar and began as follows: "Today the magicians come to Herod's country ...". Also, another version from North Corfu was as follows: "I welcome and ask if it's your definition ...".
Today in Corfu, Christmas carols are heard on the eve and on the day of the big celebration.
Starring are the island's philharmonic players who play in every alley (kantuni), the rhythm of the Carols, bringing to life every corner of the old town.
The lyrics of the Carols are special, as they are based on the Ionian dialect. They tell about the birth of Christ and the wrath of Herod.
In every house in Corfu, Christmas is dictated to be on the table the “nouboulo”, the “sykomides” and the “jaletia”. Corfu custom is at the festive table to always serve the wine of the new crop accompanied by " sykomida". The " sykomida ", or otherwise the fig pie, is made of dried figs, fermented with must or ouzo, pepper, fennel seeds and lemon zest.
At Christmas Day they maintained the "egg and lemon soup" habit as a main dish. From meats accompanied to the table there were beef soup, pork bun with garlic and salt and pepper and lamb with artichoke.
The day after Christmas Day, her honor was the turkey ("The Galos" as Corfiots says from the Greek word galopula [= turkey]) stuffed with omelet, chestnuts, pine cones and baked (in old times) in a portable oven. Also, in other houses we see served the "boutiino" a tall corfiot pasticcio covered with a sweet crust.
The meals complemented the Corfu sausages, the “nouboulo” and the “salado”.
Nouboulo is one of the "gifts" left by Venetian domination on the island from the middle of the 14th to the late 18th century. This is how began the production of "salados" that is sausages, on the island,. Nubulo Fomikados was and remains the most popular sausage in Corfu, widely known as Corfiot prosciutto.
In the beginning the Nouboulo was made only by the butchers of the time when the meat was processed by the pigs. Then was made the traditional recipe of each house. It is a piece of pork, originally stuck with coarse salt, marinated with Corfiot red wine, with spices and herbs of Corfu. Then, after passing into a natural gut and sprinkled with oregano and pepper, it is smoked with aromatic branches of sage, flisky, rug, oregano and laurel and matures for many days in the air.
The bumper is served on Christmas Eve, cut into very thin slices, accompanying the "Botsoni" a full clay jug with red wine, cheeses and cool salads of the time.
After the meal, local virtuous wine was served with sykomida (figs pie) and for sweet served mandolato and coarse buns of fresh local butter (the famous in all Greece corfiot butter) and whole almonds.
New Year's Eve
On New Year's Eve on the island of Corfu, locals revive the custom of "Cologne".
The tradition of custom wants the young and the elderly to be struck by cologne everyone who meets, well -known and unknown and wish "good cuts", that is, to leave with the best wishes the old Year.
A New Year's Eve ride in Corfu villages and we will see on front doors hanging, a plant with large green leaves on a bulb, reminiscent of a large onion. It is called a “Skylokremido” [=dog-onion] latin = Urginea maritima and it is the ancient squill. In Corfu she is called also Askela, while in other places she is also called Kouvaraskila.
The custom wants the dog-onion to hang out for the front doors of every New Year's Eve, because they believe it gives life and power to man and prevents any unpleasant event. It is also said that in order to avoid evil, when you see dog-onion grow, kneeling and bitten by the leaflet it projects from the soil and is white with black dots.
In northern Corfu on New Year's Eve, the elders of the village wake up from dawn.
The custom has for hundreds of years to be the first to welcome the new year. They go out to their windows or courtyards and overlook the mountains, especially the Pantokrator, the highest mountain of Corfu and say with absolute devotion "Good morning mountains and happy New Year, like the mountains to be strong, like the sea waking up and like sea waves To do the desires. "
In the areas of Oros and Agyros, very early New Year's Eve and while she has not yet risen, the housewife was out of her house, made her cross at the East, looked at the mountains and said:
"Good morning mountains- a good year like you to be strong- and like the birds wake up." She went home again and headed to the fireplace.
He had gone down the ash from the woods in a small pile. This pile was with his hands and said:
"Egg-birds, egg-birds and housewives well. Thousands and thousands the Goods for my home, thousands the oils kgs and the wines kgs and a lot of money" The incantation repeated 3 times.
The same incantation was used to accept it from children who were turning the houses in the morning. They were treated with nuts, figs and coins. The children considered all these innocent and believed that their wish would catch, because in addition to the wish, they also had a "good omen", who would bring happiness to the house for the whole year.
From that custom came the proverbial phrase "Take him for Eggs - Birds" for some adults who believed they had "bad omen".
The custom of "Strina"
Strina's custom revives New Year's Day throughout the island. This is the great "bonamas (money)" that children will get from all their relatives. The roots of the "Strina" come from the Byzantine years. It is essentially the currency of the Caladists who in the Byzantine years was called "evarhismos" or "Strina" by the Latin Strena. In Latin it means a good omen, but also a New Year's gift. The Corfiots maintain the custom by giving children money as a gift for the new year.
The curtain of Christmas and New Year's Eve in Corfu "falls" on the Epiphany day when young and old will defy the weather conditions of the winter and dive into the blue waters of the Ionian Sea to "catch" the Cross from the bottom of the sea. The lucky man who will bring the cross to the surface will be blessed and lucky throughout the new year. The whole process of throwing the Cross on Theophany Day for the sanctification of the water is accompanied by the Philharmonic of the Court, while the Cross is thrown off the sea with the boats that "carry" the priests to tie in the Ionian Sea.
From the one until the other side of the island, Corfu at Christmas is flooded with fragrances, golden and red color and melodies that takes you to another era, in the age of carefree, hospitality and joy, in the era of Christmas fairy tales.«A Voyage over the Years -