Actually, Greek traditions aren't a piece of cake.
|Olive harvest at our house - a treasured tradition|
But it was a piece of traditional cake that made me think more deeply about those customs and rituals that have played out in our adopted country for ages; yet they make up our new experiences as expats - sometimes in such rapid succession that we can't keep up with them. The deep-rooted rituals and layers of symbolism at times simply boggle the mind.
|Roasting chestnuts at Kastania's Chestnut Festival - a local tradition|
Take this week, for example: It began with two full days of the ages-old tradition of olive harvest. They were followed by the Feast Day of Agios Dimitrios (Saint Dimitrios) and the Name Day celebration of all those named for him. By week's end we were among those celebrating Chestnut Festival in the village a few miles away, named Kastania, after the nut.
Traditions: Celebrating Our Saint
|The Stone House on the Hill above Agios Dimitrios|
At the base of the hill on which our Stone House on the Hill is built sits the village of Agios Dimitrios. Its church carries the same name. Agios Dimitrios is the Patron Saint of the city of Thessaloniki, and he is celebrated on Oct. 26th because that is the day that city was liberated from Ottoman rule after five centuries of occupation.
Now Thessaloniki is a large city to our east - an hour's flight from the Kalamata Airport so you may be wondering why we were celebrating it in a small fishing village tucked away among olive groves on the other side of the Peloponnese. Well, it turns out he is also the patron of agriculture, peasants and shephards in the Greek countryside. . .
So, it stands to reason that we would celebrate his day in the church in the village that both carry his name even if located miles from Thessaloniki. Similar celebrations were taking place throughout the country. Those who are named for saints, in this case, the Dimitris, and Dimitras of the world also celebrate as it is their Name Day, a day as special as their birth date.
|Pappas Paniotis our village priest|
We nodded to friends and neighbors as we stood together outside the already crowded small church and listened to the sermon delivered by our village priest, Pappas Paniotis. It didn't matter that it was in Greek. Anyone who has ever said The Lord's Prayer regularly knows when it is being offered, no matter the language. And that part of the service we did understand!
|Enormous loaves of bread were served|
While listening to the service, we watched several ladies from the village setting up tables in the church yard with plates of sweets and packets of bread (that would be taken home by attendees). When it seemed there couldn't possibly be more to eat, they brought out the cakes. Not just any cakes, mind you, but the Koliva. Little did we know the significance of this beautiful cake.
Traditions: A Piece of Cake
|The alter in Agios Dimitrios church|
|Celebrating Agios Dimitrios in the village that carries his name|
|The village from the church - both Agios Dimitrios|