Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Village Name day ... Party!

Greece and her villages are stuffed right to the very brim with culture and tradition. It seems that every village has a church, every church was named after a Saint and every Saint has a name day.  A sort of birthday for the church. The villages throw parties for the Saint who the church was named after.

 Interestingly enough it seems that, quite conveniently, almost all these Saints have their name days in the summer. Last night my husband and I were invited to attend the name day celebrations of a village called Sklavi. The village was once home to Greek slaves and then Turkish slaves but that is another story. The village is perched right on the edge of the mountain, in fact if it got any closer I am quite convinced that it would probably fall off into the beautiful valley below, perhaps not a disaster but there would be some sore heads in the aftermath.

Anyway, Sklavi was celebrating the name day of the Saint after which it is named. Saint Marina, my husband quickly chirped up that she was the patron Saint of all moored boats - she is not, but I thought it was quite witty of him. Saint Marina was in fact a great martyr and was known for vanquishing demons.

The way these things are done is that the villagers prepare a monumental mountain of food, everyone goes to the church for an hour-long service and then the villagers throw a party in the church grounds. Convinced that if we go into a church we will melt or be struck by lightning, my husband and I decided to be Greek with our timings and skip out the church part, which turned out to be a good idea as it was a hot day already and the church was at least 10 degrees warmer. 

In the churchyard were some of the longest tables I have ever seen, each one hosting about 50 people and there were at least 10 tables with a few smaller ones hidden around the yard. The place was heaving and if you were even slightly overweight once you sat down you were not getting up again as the tables and chairs had been so tightly packed that a sardine in a tin would have had more space to wriggle around.

        Turns out that moving under the tables was the easiest way to move around!

Food was brought to the table along with Raki, (Greek rocket fuel - we are still trying to work out why Greece doesn’t have a space program but more on that another day), and wine which, our table proceeded to drink as if it was water. At some point ladies came around selling tickets for a lottery of gifts, on each table there was a list of everything that you could win… A friend started translating and then halfway through burst into giggles when she got to the item which read ‘a return ticket’, it didn’t say where to, all you knew was that if you went you could come back! Amused by this my husband and I decided to buy some tickets and play the lottery, of course we didn’t win but it was highly entertaining as a churchyard with at least 500 people who were super noisy became silent and absolute concentration was give to the chance of winning the lottery!

A band started playing and with that the inevitable Greek dancing began. It is a dance which only has four steps starting slow and speeding up with the music, you hold on to the person on either side of you and dance around in a circle until the music gets so fast that inevitably they all break up or fall over. I have absolutely no rhythm, like really NO rhythm making me completely incapable of dancing. I try to avoid it at all costs, which I managed to this time. Despite the fact that the dance only has four steps I am still unable to pull them off!  The rest of the people at the party found it easy and before long the dance was squeezing its way through the tables in a Greek style conga!

The evening was great fun but at some point we had to peal ourselves away to find the way home.

Most villages have these celebrations in the summer months when everyone is in the mood to party. Some villages, like Sklavi, don’t charge you to enter and provide everything for free, other villages charge between 10 and 15 Euros to enter and then supply you with enough food and alcohol to engorge you and give you a very nasty hangover. We will be attending another festival on Friday night in the village of Sikia. If you get the chance to attend one of these village celebrations I suggest that you take up the offer. It is a very interesting insight into the world of a small village. The people there are always very kind and genuinely interested in how you got to their village.  

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