April 5, 2010

Bright Week Customs In Northern Greece

The second day of Easter in Giannitsa of Pella revives the custom of "Kounies" or "Swings" (Κουνιές). It is believed that riding a swing is good for one's health and an abundant harvest.

On the third day of Easter, Bright Tuesday, in Kalyvia Limenaria of Thassos is called "For Rain In April" (Για βρέξ΄ Απρίλη μ΄). It is an ancient custom to pray for spring rain. Residents of the community and visitors celebrate with folk dances and large pots of rice cooked with meat that is distributed to everyone.

On the same day in Ierissos of Halkidiki there is the following tradition called in Greek "Του μαύρου νιου τ΄ αλώνι" or "the black threshing floor":

After the failure of the Greek revolution in Halkidiki in 1821, the village of Ierissos, which took part in the 1821 Greek War of Independence in Macedonia, was burnt down and 400 persons were killed. According to one tradition, they were taken to a place called "the black threshing floor" and were made to dance under the swords of the Turkish soldiers. With every turn a man was beheaded. According to another tradition, the notables among others, afraid for more reprisals escaped to the mountains. When Easter arrived, it is said that the city of Ierissos appeared deserted without its inhabitants. The Turks sent for them and informed them that if they came back they would not be prosecuted in any way. On Tuesday after Easter Sunday those that had left returned. When they reached a threshing floor at the outskirts of the town, the Greeks were obliged to pass under an arch formed by the swords of Turkish soldiers, in order to show how they are subjugated to the Ottoman rule. A young man ashamed for this humiliation in front of the eyes of his loved one, seized the swords and was killed by the Turks on the spot. The dance has been danced in Ierissos every year on the first Tuesday after Easter at a place known as the "threshing floor of the black lad". It was danced of course during the Ottoman period and the reference to the young man´s loved one is meant to be an allegory of liberty.

On Bright Wednesday in the Municipal District of Eleutheron west of Kavala there is an emotional and reverent custom called "Mazidia" (Μαζίδια) that takes place dating back to Ottoman times. The faithful process with icons from the Byzantine Church of the Archangels, which is the oldest church in the region of Mazidia, to the picturesque Church of Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene.

There is a blessing of artoklasia and holy water with prayers to the Risen Christ to bless the crops and a fruitful season. After venerating the icons, the procession returns to the Church of the Archangels.

Then the big feast begins in the village square. The dancing begins with the priest leading followed by the villagers. This is a tradition that goes prior to Ottoman times.

On Bright Thursday in Kalis Vrysis of Drama the icon of the Resurrection of Christ is processed around the farming areas to protect the village from all evil, especially from the extremely dangerous hail storms that could devastate the spring crop.

After Easter in Mikropoli of Drama an event called "Celebration of God" (Γιορτή του Θεού) takes place at the Chapel of St. George with a dinner there.

On the Monday of Thomas in Sitagroi of Drama the Pontic people continue their old tradition of visiting the graves with red eggs, distributing sweets and singing songs.