words & images anastasia miari
The island shakes off its slumber as sunlight creeps up over the horizon. Today, the Greeks will forget the hardship. They’ll shake off austerity, choosing instead to feast on what the land has to offer them. The kids that left to earn a living will return to eat, to drink, to laugh, to feel the first of the summer’s sun hit their skin once more. Easter in Corfu is perhaps the highlight of my year.
Few of Kerkyra’s inhabitants visit the summit at the southern tip of the island. It is a place frequented by the entire village of Perivoli on the morning of Easter Monday. Young and old gather to exchange jokes, set fire to their throats with years-old Metaxa and Ouzo, and celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
On this occasion, it does not matter that the men don’t enter the church but stand outside, swigging their medicine. The women are content to be relieved—even for just a short while—of their duties as wives, mothers, and daughters. Instead, they lose themselves in the notes of the evangels, floating out beyond the pews of the crammed church and into the green vicinity. The meanings behind the archaic Greek words have eroded along with previous generations, but the gusto with which they sing never fails to evoke emotion, even from the youngest of the congregation.
Forget Syriza, a rumoured ‘Grexit,’ and the mounting pressure from the EU. This tradition has survived both World Wars. Here, the village celebrates rebirth at the precise time that the island recovers from the quiet of the winter months. Like the seasons, hardships come and go, but this annual tradition will probably never change. The midday sun is usually high in the sky by the time the hundreds-strong party reaches the highest point on the cliff-side, past the white washed church in the hills, hidden among an orange grove. Up they climb, awakening to the sun and the promise of another summer.
‘Christos anesti’—Christ has risen—they exclaim as they take turns to crack each other’s hard-boiled eggs, died blood red. Each stubborn man hopes to have an egg as hard-headed as he to win him this small victory. Such is the way of the Greeks.
Families and friends mesh in this tight entanglement on the hilltop overlooking the sea. They breathe in the fresh air, smile in unison at the clear blue sky, and nod when catching each other’s eye. The storms have passed and at breaking point, cleared. Gone are the long, tedious days of winter. The tiresome olive picking months in the rain, and the silent Sundays spent indoors with only the in- laws for company. Now’s the time for food, for family, and for hope. Today is Easter and, like Christ, the island has resurrected. I’m hopeful that the same will happen for Greece, in time.