February 10, 2010

St. Haralambos and the Sacrifice of the Bull

The Municipality of Agia Paraskevi is situated in the center of the island of Lesvos, among the hills and close to the plain of Kalloni. Agriculture and cattle raising are the main income sources of the Municipality.

The Municipality of Agia Paraskevi is famous for the "Religious Festival of Tavros". This festival is the most important popular activity of the village of Agia Paraskevi and it combines a variety of happenings that regard the ritual of the bull's (tavros) sacrifice. An agricultural group called "Το Ισνάφι των Ζευγάδων" (Agricultural Association "The Progress") revived this ancient custom in 1774. It was established as a reverence to St Haralambos, the protector of this agricultural group (Το Ισνάφι) that organizes this festival (St. Haralambos is the patron saint of ploughmen).

The festival is linked to an old story: "During the period of Turkish occupation, a Turk stole a bull. Each time he tried to kill it, a bright light shone in his eyes, until eventually, he gave the bull back."

The incomes of this celebration are used for the inhabitants' common profit. The activities that take place during the celebration of this festival are the following:

The inhabitants gather the necessary materials (wheat etc.) for the preparation of the traditional meal ("kiskek"). The carrying of the decorated bull around the village takes place with the participation of the local orchestra. The pilgrims ride decorated horses accompanied by the local traditional orchestra. Sacrifice of the bull takes place at the chapel of St Haralambos situated at the evergreen mountain of Tavros that rests nearly 30 minutes outside of the village in a remote location.

Throughout the night, preparation of the traditional meal is accompanied by popular dances. The inhabitants return to the village, where a parade of horses and horse races take place. Amusement at the central square of the village takes place with the visitors' participation. On the last night of the festival, local inhabitants have fun until the next morning.

These festivals that take place at the village of Agia Paraskevi last for several days; they start from Friday and last until Monday, usually in the middle of June. The dances and the songs as well as the popular orchestras that play traditional music from Lesvos and from the village of Agia Paraskevi and Asia Minor are of a great importance at those festivals. The Religious Festival of Tavros takes place at the end of the spring and coincides with the preparation of the harvest.