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NEWS FROM KEFALONIA

 

I have already received many questions about visiting the island at festival time and also Easter. What happens, availability of accommodation food etc., and whilst visiting other things to see and do. As most people and tour companies seem to think Kefalonia closes for the winter. Firstly, what happens is below , accommodation etc., will soon be on the main pages as will other things to see and do in alternative pastimes. However, you will always be able to find hotel accommodation in the main towns along with rooms in most villages. Travelling to and around the island is also on the index pages. For further detailed information contact me through the Message Board or E-mail.

Carnival Time

One month before Lent and its Show Time

Don't think for one minute that Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro or the Italians of Venice are the only ones who know how to party.

The week before Shrove Monday Carnivals are held all over Greece. On Kefalonia you have a choice of two parades to visit one in the Capital Argostoli and the other in Lixouri, with lots and lots of bars, clubs and parties to go to before the weekend is over.

The Carnival or Mardi Gras isn't just a tradition of the Venetians or the Brazilians, it actually comes from the Latin word for the 'farewell to meat' . We can then assume (as well as history informing us) that this time of year amongst the Roman Catholic world was just a good excuse to party before having to give up meat before Easter. Even the covering of the face with a mask can be traced back to Roman celebrations.

In the 1700s a Carnival began in December after Christmas and went on until Ash W ednesday. This nonstop partying, included gambling and widespread irresponsibility and was part of the weakening of the Venetian Democracy. It was only after Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797 that an end was put to Carnival time. But astute businessmen recognised the potential of a new tourist season. Hence the ancient Carnival was reborn.

Nowadays, all week parties, satirical plays, pantomime and dancing take place on Kefalonia with masquerades everywhere, as you can imagine the place is buzzing. Then at the weekend you have the processions and fancy dress competitions. On Sunday the cavalcade of elaborately decorated floats happens in both Argostoli and Lixouri. For the pageant, shops are full of streamers, confetti, whistles, plastic hammers, hats, wigs and a large array of masks, from cardboard to a complete plastic head covers resembling anyone from Frankenstein to President Clinton, all to enable you to keep your identity a secret. If you're visiting and forgot to pack your batman ensemble! Remember you can wear your most casual clothes, or don the most outlandish costumes which can be made by hand, hired or even bought - "where's the dustbin liner?"

On 'Kathari Theftera' Shrove Monday the fun doesn't stop. Shrove Monday marks the commencement of the 40 day period of Lent prior to Easter, which traditionally symbolises the beginning of a spiritual and physical cleansing especially after the 'sins' of the previous weeks! As well as cleaning the soul it literally means to clean the house. All the kitchen utensils used to be cleaned with ash water, to remove any traces of meat products.

Although it is a day of fasting it is celebrated with singing, dancing and kite flying, picnics are held all over from the hill tops to the seashore. In Argostoli and Lixouri you find unusual traditions being reenacted, such as mock weddings where the bride is a man. Other comical plays take place where fake funeral possessions take place. Once more these are a satirical form of ancient rites and ritu als, which I am not even going to try and explain.

Over the years another custom has been added, the highly colourful and visual activity of kite flying. Svoronata is a very popular place, at Cape Pelagia there is a competition as to who can fly the highest, and both children and adults take part. Once mo re it is a time for family and friends to get together and a traditional Shrove Monday meal or picnic which consists of fish roe salad, tzadziki seafoods, dolmathes (vineleaves stuffed with rice and spices) , pickled vegetables, fresh salads, and the famous lagana bread, and of course plenty of wine helps with the festivities.

 

Greek Easter - Paska

Easter is the most important celebration in Greece and of the Orthodox calendar. Much more important than Christmas or New Year, with Greeks returning from all parts of the world to be with their family and friends, to celebrate this special time in their own villages.

Easter in Greece is the cornerstone of belief and social values and is probably the only time of the year that all of the family, young and old, believe in and will attend together. They come instantaneously to attend this deep rooted tradition, as the excitement of the week grips everyone even those most unaccustomed to attending a regular service within their home villages.

The Sunday before Easter, or Palm Sunday is the start of 'Megali Evthomada' (big week) or Holy Week. The older women, always devout in every detail, will be seen daily visiting the churches, decorating them with flowers, saying prayers and ensuring that everything is well prepared for the daily services.

Traditionally no meat is eaten for the whole of Lent (40 days) but once again you normally find only the devoted ladies of the village will abide to this full duration, today it is normal to fast only just during Holy Week. The sanctioned foods only of salads, beans, eggs, cheeses, pies made of weeds or spinach are made, with fish replacing meat. More preparation is made on Holy Thursday when the freshest of eggs are boiled with a red dye and polished with olive oil for Easter Sunday. The 'Tsoureki' bread is baked - twisted loaves of sweet bread containing a red egg. 'Prosforo' Holy Bread is also prepared by the bakers and stamped with the seal of the church, to be blessed and distributed by the priest in a the church services.

'Megali Paraskevi' Holy Friday arrives and during the day services will be held in remembrance of Christ's crucifixion. Whilst the evening is the time of a solemn parade through the streets with what is known as the 'Epitaphios' Christ's Funeral bier ornately decorated with flowers.(A bier is a platform where a body rests before burial or entombment)

Then on Saturday evening the children, especially the boys, wait eagerly for the moment to let off their fire works or bangers. Then at midnight a mass takes place to celebrate Christ's triumphant return to life 'Anastasi' or Resurrection. In many churches all lights are extinguished this is when Christ passes through to the underworld. The 'Papas' Priest then appears from behind the altar screen with a lit flame.

'The light of the World'

He then proceeds to ignite the unlit candles, this flame is then passed from one to another until the whole church is ablaze with candle light. The Papas then announces that 'Christos Anesti' Christ has risen, the skies all over Greece are soon illuminated with fireworks. With the whole community exchanging the traditional response 'Alithos Anesti' he has truly arisen.

The burning candles are taken home through the streets with many of the young girls trying desperately to make it home with their candles still aflame. At the door it is common practice to make the sign of the cross on the lintel leaving a black smear visible for the rest of the year.

This is the first time the Easter Eggs are cracked each person is given a red egg to tap against another's, end on end, until one is broken, the person with the last remaining uncracked egg is considered to be lucky.

The fast is then broken with 'magiritsa' Easter Soup made from the giblets of the lamb prepared with rice, lemon and vegetables. Sunday and the midday services at church are a joyous occasion, bells ring and often more processions take place.

The disproportionate eating then begins, with roast meats, dairy produce, sweet foods and lots of wine and spirits. B ut most of all this is primarily a time for families, Greek people make much of the Easter Sunday celebrations, with all the traditional foods being prepared and enjoyed. The Easter lamb is the centre piece and more often than not cooked by the men of the house, you will always see makeshift barbecues, some in old oil cans cut in half or on the ground with the skewered lamb or goat supported above the glowing embers, slowly being turned to ensure a well basted treat.

 

By Sue Thompson ŠAll work protected under Copyright Law.

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