Sunday, 28 April 2013

A parade for Palm Sunday in Corfu

In church this morning, there are palm crosses hanging from the chandeliers in the church in Agios Magikades.

The smiling villager who looks like an old Matt Monro is in good, harmonic form as he chants at the front.

At the end of the service, the priest hands out palm crosses and posies, but we don't go up to collect one, having fallen out with him at New Year. (More of this another time. Easter is the time for forgiveness.) We are a little disappointed, as the palm fronds came from our own tree, but there is no good to be had in labouring the point, in case we are snubbed again. We are English and don't want to cause a scene.

So we exchange kindly smiles with the village congregation and then head for Corfu Town and the Palm Sunday parade.

We park on the road to the market, just as a coach ahead causes a traffic jam when it struggles to pass a car parked on a bend. As we head towards town, we can hear music. And drums.

We turn the corner and my cheekbones tingle and I become all emotional. I am a sucker for a parade, local tradition and a marching band.
Corfu is famous for its bands and we are treated to two walking right by us as we make our way to the old town. Flutes, drums, cymbals, saxophones, trumpets and xylophones.
A sousaphone player drops his music so I pick it up from the warm tarmac.

'Hey, Spiros,' the player behind him says, as he taps him on the shoulder and points to his mislaid sheets.

Of course he is called Spiros. It is the name of the island's patron saint, after all.

On the Liston, I ask a lady if I can take a photo of her palm crosses, as we did not pick up one of our own.
She insists on giving me one of them.

'It will help you,' she says.

The Liston is filling up with people, the flags are flying and even the dogs are dressed up.
And then old St Spyridon himself comes by, looking a bit cramped in his silver and gold casket and separated from his hand (in another casket) by several metres and hundreds of years. He is flanked by priests of all shapes and sizes, soldiers in shades carrying guns and an assortment of very important people behind.
There is a priest with dyed black hair, goatee and sunglasses, looking for all the world like Peter Sellers, jolly priests with well trimmed hair and beards and colourful robes, one who is filming the parade as he walks in it and another with a camera over his shoulder, a gift bag in his hand and a ready smile.

Bells throughout the old town clang as the procession walks by, accompanied by some jaunty music from the band while the holy men swing incense in front of the revered saint.
And then there is one of those moments frozen in time. We see our own village priest in the parade, a man in black, looking very serious and walking alone and holding the best palm 'cross' you ever did see, like the top of a bullwhip, almost a miniature palm tree which probably originated from our garden yet he does not know it. He glances my way. I am not sure if he sees me but, in any case, I defiantly hold up the palm cross I was given earlier.

I am hoping he will think of it as a sign: 'Be nice to this foreigner, this Medea, this barbarian. Yes, she is English and, even worse, a woman. But, all in all, she is all right.'
It is a busy day in Corfu Town on Palm Sunday. And it will be even busier next weekend for Greek Easter.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x


  1. excellent telling. i was going to dig out old fotos and invent a ton of stuff to impress the folks back home in wiltshire and seattle, but sending them this was far better. bravo.

  2. Very glad to be of service, sir. You can send them my reports from the front at Easter, too.

  3. Was that your village priest in the very first seconds of the film clip? The music was quite somber, though I loved the marching band in the first film. Imagine all those people meeting to practice all year just for events such as that.

  4. Mmm, Pondside, it could be. I didn't even notice him in the parade until later when Mr Grigg pointed him out. Yes, the music got jauntier but I'd used up all the space on my little camera by then. They parade the saint's body through the old town four times a year. And you can always hear band music echoing through the streets as musicians practise in the rooms above your head.

  5. Good post - I enjoyed reading it!


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