A celebration for Mary - the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos

The plateia is quiet now, after the lunchtime rush. Whole parties of families gathered in the village tavernas and locals celebrated around big tables in their gardens.

Today is one of the most sacred days in the Greek Orthodox calendar, marking the Dormition of the Theotokos or the 'falling asleep' of the Virgin Mary. The feast commemorates the end of her earthly life and her miraculous assumption into heaven.

It is the name day for Marias, Marios, Panagoitis and Despinas, and a public holiday in Greece.


Last night, as we have done for several years, we walked in the procession through the village from church to church to church, ending at the cemetery high up on the hill. I lit a candle for my own family's Mary and paused to remember her.

Outside, the graves glowed in candlelight.

Back down in the village and into the plateia, the lovely white-haired Maria dragged me in to collect a bunch of basil, the herb that is said to have grown at the base of Jesus Christ's cross.

The plateia was thronged with Greeks, many of them from Athens who had come back to Corfu to be with family and friends for this special holiday. Children played like swallows, darting in and out, as their parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles chatted about this and that at the top of their voices.


A great decanter of red wine was placed on our table by the former village president, who remembers the time when Mr Grigg became rather ill on wine, beer and raki. A plate of luscious baked lamb with potatoes, peppers and aubergines mysteriously appeared and then beef with pasta was devoured in minutes.


And at midnight, the men piled into the syllogos to mix the spernaThey have done this for as long as anyone can remember. 

The men took the barley  - softened in great cauldrons of bubbling water  - into the syllogos, the communal hall at the centre of the village, and poured it out on to a big sheet of plastic before adding currants, sugar, aniseed, sugared and whole almonds and little candied sweets like confetti.

Some of them got down on their knees to mix it by han. And then a whole lot of pepper was added, prompting a sneezing fit from at least one of the participants.

Once the mix was complete the doors were thrown open for the women to sit down at the long table to assemble the bags of sperna ready to distribute later.


It is a sticky business, with much chatter in between scooping and then cries (in Greek) of 'more bags, more sperna'. In my haste, I spilled a small amount on the floor.

'They will kill us,' said my sperna-packing colleague, Dora, nodding towards the men. She had a wry grin on her face but I wasn't taking any chances. I hid the spillage with my handbag.

Today, great basket fulls of bagged sperna were taken around the village, door to door, after the church service.


I found a currant in the pocket of my dress.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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