February 11, 2022

The Custom of the Distribution of a Piece of Watermelon in Kerkyra Every February 11th

Although watermelon today is known to Greeks as the king of the summer fruits, it is traditionally known as a winter fruit (heimoniko), due to the fact that it has a thick rind and can be preserved until Christmas, or even until Great Lent. On the island of Kerkyra, it is a custom to distribute a piece of watermelon on the feast of Saint Blaise, which is February 11th, at the Metropolitan Church of the island after the Divine Liturgy.

On February 11th in Kerkyra, the Empress Theodora is primarily celebrated, whose relic came to Kerkyra from Constantinople, shortly after the fall of Constantinople, together with the relic of Saint Spyridon. The litany of the relic of Saint Theodora, who ratified the decisions of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787 and restored the Holy Icons in 843, is kept in the Metropolitan Church of Kerkyra which is dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos Spilaiotissa and Saint Theodora.

According to Orthodox tradition, Empress Theodora died on February 11, 867, and after her translation her remains were found intact, had the scent of myrrh and performed many miracles, at which point the Church declared her a Saint.

The procession of her relic, established in 1985 by Metropolitan Timotheos, as a commemoration of the restoration of the icons by Theodora, begins at 11:30 in the morning from the Metropolitan Church and follows a procession in all the main streets, the long narrow streets of the Old Town and at Spianada Square in Liston, accompanied by the city's Philharmonic, the clergy and the authorities and people that follow.

Also on this day, after the end of the Divine Liturgy, in the Metropolitan Church, the "winter watermelon" is distributed to all the faithful, that is, a piece of watermelon.

The watermelon is shared in memory of Saint Blaise, Archbishop of Sebaste, who was martyred during the years of the persecution of Licinius, and is also celebrated on February 11th. This is a small piece of watermelon, which is distributed in the winter, in memory of the miracle of Saint Blaise against the plague. Saint Blaise was a physician, and on the eve of his martyrdom, while the epidemic of the plague was "reaping" the world, he asked for watermelons to be brought and after blessing them they were distributed to the sick children who were cured of the disease after consuming the watermelon.

Thus in Kerkyra the custom prevailed to bless watermelons on the day of his commemoration, and to share a piece with the faithful.