Showing posts with label Greek holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek holidays. Show all posts

Friday, November 25, 2022

Thanksgiving Thursday in Greece

I write this on what is Thanksgiving Day back in our old world.

Here it is Thursday, a just-another-day, Thursday in our expat world in Greece.

The iconic Macy's parade in New York City - Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is that Thursday-in-November-feasting-and-football-watching holiday in America that originated back in the 1600's as a celebration of the bountiful harvest. In recent decades it has been the unofficial kickoff for the Christmas Season. My favorite part of the day used to be when Santa arrived at the end of the televised Macy's [department store] Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. It meant it was time to decorate for Christmas! And I assume he still arrives - we just don't watch US television in Greece.

Thanksgiving Thursday has also - in recent years - become the precursor to the Retail World's Black Friday - a day that needs no explanation unless you have been living on Mars.

Black Friday is alive and well in Greece

But we are in Greece where Thursday is Thursday.  However, Friday is Black Friday here, the dash-for-deals holiday that begins minutes after Friday arrives. Our Facebook inbox has been filled with Black Friday specials all week - most of them from Greek retailers and travel industry sites. As a side note to those ads, I did try ordering from one of the Greek sites,and got as far as putting in my credit card information and realized there was no option for an American credit card.  Sale not made and I saved even more money than I would have!

Our olives - The Stone House on the Hill

I suspect Americans who indulged in Thanksgiving feasts this year spent little time thinking about bountiful harvests. I can assure you that in our slice of the Greek Peloponnese we may not have been feasting in the American tradition, but harvest is on the minds of all. Following a very dry year, one plagued by the pesky Dako (olive fly that destroys crops) there are thanks being offered each time the olive oil flows from the processors. 

I've often written that harvest is my favorite time of the year here. The whirring noise of olive harvest equipment provides background sound as families and friends gather to bring in the crop. Slowing to a stop on roads that have been covered with nets-- to catch the wayward olives that have been beaten off the branches - while harvesters pull them back for us to pass is one of those reminders of why I love this harvest season so much. That, and of course, completing our own harvest.

Nets drape our terraces, olives in the foreground

We were among the early harvesters and completed our one-day effort before the end of October. It is our seventh season of spreading nets and filling burlap bags with those emerald oil jewels. There is nothing like the intense aroma of olive oil in the air as we sit to the side of the rumbling, churning processors waiting for the magic moment our olives become oil.  

The Stone House on the Hill, traditional Greek ladder in foreground

Our harvest was a whopper for hobby olive growers as we are, we who boast either 17 or 18 trees in our grove and gardens.  We took 800 pounds of olives to the press, and they were turned into 59 liters of oil. . .not bad for two old boomers who didn't know an oil-producing olive from an eating olive when we bought our Stone House on the Hill.

A matter of hours later - our olive oil

We watch our olives being processed each year and the thrill of seeing that emerald flow come out of the faucet, knowing it is from our trees, never gets old! But we can also attest to the fact that harvesting olives by hand, as it is done here, is some of the hardest physical labor we have ever done.  We are ready to quit after about four hours. . .yet, some here, who make their living off olives, harvest all day long for weeks. The harvest season stretches from late October to early January

Holidays in our Slice of Greece

Epiphany - January's Blessing of the Water a Greek celebration

So back to holidays. Here we celebrate Independence Days (of which we have two - one in the spring and one in the fall), we celebrate Saints Name Days, the Blessing of the Water and Christmas. And what a joy it is to celebrate those ages-old-events that are so new to us! We came wanting to experience a new culture and there is no better way than celebrating a Greek holiday, like our local village's celebration of Agios Dimitrios Day

Things like Halloween, Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving, while big in America, pretty much go by without notice in our village. Larger cities like Athens did have Halloween decorations up when last we were there near that holiday.  

Thanksgiving Thursday lunch on the waterfront 

Thanks to the many of you who have sent us Thanksgiving greetings (which are always appreciated) and inquired whether we would be gathering with other expats for a turkey dinner. We did not. We spent our Thursday running errands in the big city Kalamata and had ourselves a treat of a lunch at a new hotel there, the Grand Hotel Kalamata.  Our feast was a club sandwich. . .and feast it was!

A Thanksgiving Thursday feast

We have, in the past, celebrated with fellow American expats and had Thanksgiving Day feasts patterned after those back in the States. They are always fun get-togethers, but then we expats enjoy get-togethers any time of the year.  Even meeting for morning coffee feels like a celebration. 

And to those who have asked, yes, we can get turkeys here, but the selection is greater at Christmas, a holiday celebrated by Greeks and expats alike. And we even have pumpkin pie with real whipped cream. . .thankfully, some expat friends actually bake them and share them with us! (That was a skill I didn't develop in America and have not pursued here!)

Konstantina's Pumpkin Pie and real whipped cream

That's it for this week.  Our holiday wishes to those of you celebrating Thanksgiving. And to all of you who join us here at TravelnWrite, please know that we are thankful to have each of you with us ~ 

We'll be back soon with more tales of our brief taste of Italian dolce vita. Until then safe travels to you and yours ~





Thursday, April 16, 2020

Ringing in Easter ~ The Sounds of Silence

The church bells are silent this year.  They've been silent for weeks. So silent, that it is downright eerie at times.

Easter as it was - not this year!
To be silent any time is not normal in a Greek village but especially now in the midst of Megali Evdomada - the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Traditionally, this is the week when church bells chime with regularity; their messages either upbeat peals of joy or mournful dirges for the dead.

No candle lighting gatherings in the square this year

On Good Friday their call is so hauntingly sad -- commemorating the death of Jesus - that they can easily give one goosepimples - even if you didn't know the symbolism of their ringing.  Then late Saturday night when the crowds have gathered -- filling the streets near the church --  to call out Christos Anesti, (Christ is Risen) and to participate in candle-lighting, their joyous clanging is so loud that you clap hands over your ears to save the eardrums.

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No Easter gatherings here this year 

So to silence church bells this sacred week in Greece is nearly incomprehensible. Here, where the Eastern Orthodox religion is considered a state religion and more than 95% of the near 11 million residents are members of the Greek Orthodox Church.

But this is Greek Easter in a time of pandemic. Nothing is as it was anywhere in the world. Greece is no exception. The holiday will be observed without gatherings and celebrations in or near the holy cornerstones of every village and city in this country.  These drastic curtailments being taken by the church and state reflect the seriousness with which COVID-19 is being dealt here.

In a televised address to the nation Monday evening our Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, "Our faith is not at risk, but the health of the faithful."

Many of you've written, asking how Greece is responding and how we are doing. The elimination of such sacred Easter traditions is the most recent illustration of just how seriously the government and citizens are dealing with curtailing the spread of coronavirus.  It is a good way to begin my answer to your questions:

What The Government is doing

Government emergency text alert to all mobile phones

Greece -- only a few years ago, the economic underdog of  the European Union --  is emerging as a poster child in the world for addressing coronavirus quickly and correctly.  Way back on Feb. 27th when the first COVID-19 case was identified here, the shutdowns began. All Karnivale gatherings were cancelled.  The numbers and scope of cancellations and restrictions built in the weeks that followed leaving no industry or individual untouched.   
  


Closed. . .the word of the pandemic.

Tourism has tanked. From beaches to store fronts, the closed signs have gone up in rapid succession.  Here all non-essential business, even hardware stores, are closed. All people living in the country need to notify the government when they leave their homes. We are not to visit family.  We are not to visit friends. 


PM Mitsotakis, has repeatedly likened the efforts to fighting a war. And it's clear he has a country that is willing to help him win the battle.  Mitsotakis, who has served as prime minister for less than a year (taking office last July), is proving himself to be a firm, decisive and unwavering leader. He has won the trust of the people. Opposing parties and the church are standing with him.

Stay at home orders are taken seriously

This united approach seems to be paying off.


Knowing that statistics change by the hour, I am using a snapshot in time, taken this Wednesday morning, to illustrate how the numbers look in our adopted home, Greece, as compared to our American home state of Washington:

Greece:  population about 11 million. COVID-19 cases: 2,170. Deaths: 101
Washington State: population 7.5 million COVID-19 cases: 11,154. Deaths: 544

Greece's actions may sound draconian, but you know what? We all -- Greeks and expats alike -- are appreciating them and feel safe being here because of them. Not once have I seen a FB post from a Greek or ex pat questioning the government's authority or right to restrict our movements.


Who knows when businesses will be allowed to open again


In fact when we see a friend in passing these day, we step back from them, as if they 'had the plague' no matter how thrilled we are to see him or her.  We even laugh about the 'good old days' only four weeks ago --  before the government ordered the country closed and only suggested social distancing -- we could at least have a take out wine in the parking lot and stand an appropriate distance apart from each other and visit. Can't do that any more!


Meeting a friend - social distancing - good old days - no longer allowed

The government has made it clear that this Easter Week is considered critical for containment of people and the virus. There is talk that cars could be banned from the roadways from Saturday evening until Monday evening to assure no one sneaks in that visit with close friends or decides to visit the relatives, as is traditionally done on this holiday.  That is how serious they are taking it here.


The Scout and The Scribe

A glass of wine with friends . . .in the Pacific Northwest


Aside from missing dinners out and face-to-face meet ups with friends, life in this rural part of the Peloponnese is continuing to be pretty routine at The Stone House on the Hill.  Like millions of others we've installed Zoom and learned to use it for social gatherings. We recently drank wine 'with' friends in Kirkland and Seattle during their brunch hour and our happy hour.

Sanitizing the community dumpsters


Certain routines remain the same as we must make regular runs to city dumpsters to deposit our garbage and to fill water bottles from the community taps. On such occasions if we happen to pass friends we feel giddy at the social interaction even if it is calling out hello in passing.

The mobile phone permission texts are becoming second nature. We have six destinations or reasons allowed for leaving our home.  And now that we are into the routine, sending a text isn't a big deal at all. In the photo below my notice is in the green, my approval is in the gray.

Destination sent, permission granted

Shopping once or twice a week, we wear disposable gloves. We've yet to wear face masks. Some clerks wear both masks and gloves. Some stores have also installed glass panels to separate the clerks from the customers. I suspect those panels will remain a part of our 'new normal' life when this seemingly winds down.

The food supplies (including fresh grown/harvested veggies) are plentiful as is the sanitary hand scrub, detergents and disinfectants and. . .Ta-Dah: toilet paper!  Our selection and supply of paper goods would make many of you green with envy.

We have no need to use Insta-shop or stand in long lines waiting to be admitted into a store. We don't need to call week's in advance to get a delivery time slot nailed down. There's usually been fewer than a dozen people in our large supermarket and maybe two or three in the smaller stores when we've been shopping -- all keep their distances.

Dinner out has a whole new look - at home

We have a few cafes and tavernas open for take out beverages and food.  Such food pick-up runs have become the new 'going out for dinner'.

Last Sunday we had Easter (the one celebrated in the Catholic and Protestant religions) dinner -- turkey and trimmings -- from our hangout, Hades. This coming Sunday to celebrate Orthodox Easter we will have a take out spit roast lamb meal from Hades.  We schedule a time to pick up the meal and it is ready for us.  If not we sip a glass of wine, from a plastic glass standing outside while it is packed up. The wait time is never more than a few minutes.

Our village service stations are open and stocked with supplies of gasoline and diesel.


Preserved lemons and dried orange slices

Instead of planning and daydreaming about trips, we have found ourselves focused on home and garden projects. I have been experimenting with craft projects -- all those things I've never taken the time to pursue before. I've been preserving lemons and drying oranges. I have a chair rehab in process for the garden and other crafty things that I likely would never have gotten around to had it not been for the stay at home order.

The Scout burns olive tree trimmings


Meanwhile The Scout is focused on garden and grove. In the last two weeks we've had our olive grove trimmed and the trees sprayed. We did our final burn for the allowed open fire season, cleaning up the grove as a fire prevention move ahead of the dry summer that is predicted for this area.

Earlier this week a two-man crew arrived for a small construction project that had been scheduled before the lock down began.  In each case the workers kept their distance as did we and the jobs were done. Life does need to go on, even if a bit differently than in the past.

What is Next?

Going out for a glass of wine - pandemic-style

Now in our third week of our government enforced lock down, we've learned it will be extended to May 11th. At that time - if the curve remains flat (and you all know what that means these days) -- the restrictions will begin letting up. There is a series of re-opening steps planned to take place slowly, slowly (siga, siga as we say here). However the government has made it clear that we 'elderly' ones over 60 are going to be among the last turned loose so we are hoping that by July we have a less restrictive world.

Pantazi Beach like all beaches are empty

Of course we wonder how many of the small businesses here - especially those dependent upon tourism; of which there will likely be none or very little - will even reopen this year. So our world could look and feel vastly different even when everything is 'back to normal'.


Sunset from The Stone House on the Hill

For now we are enjoying temperatures in the 70F's and each day celebrating the fact that we are not among those statistics I listed above.  Carpe Diem is the mantra and we are trying to do just that.
We hope this finds you and yours wherever you are in the world also staying safe staying healthy and being at peace with the actions taken during this unprecedented time in history.

Where are these two vagabonds dreaming of as their first destination once our restrictions are lifted?  Let me tell you. . .it is our hair salon in Kalamata!  It might end up being the best trip we take this year!!

Thanks again for being with us and we look forward to hearing from you in comments and by email.  What is on your list as your first destination when you can again safely leave home?

Linking with:

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday




Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Easter in Greece ~ A Soul Food Fest


It is Easter Monday in Greece ~ we're wrapping up a weekend of fests and feasts. Today, technically a holiday, seems the day set aside for resting up from the weekend's activities which took place as part of Greece's most significant holiday of the year.

Greek Easter is magic. Being in this country for an Easter is a feast for your soul and your stomach!


Decorations have been on sale for weeks


Since we arrived more than a month ago the signs of Easter's arrival have been appearing in both homes and businesses.  Medical appointments, work projects, meetings and other  activities requiring a set date have been scheduled before or after "Easter Week" because that is when all focus and activities turn to the holiday.



Easter vendor booths line Kalamata's pedestrian street
Easter's date in the Greek Orthodox religion is determined by using the modified Julian calendar while Easter in the rest of the Christian world is set using the Gregorian calendar. That's why this Easter took place nearly a month after the 'other Easter'.

 The celebrations in Greece begin two months before Easter with Mardi Gras, Carnival Apokria, which ends on Shrovetide Sunday.

Decorated white candles to be used on Easter Eve services were on sale

That is followed by Kathara Deftera, or Clean Monday (Ash Monday) which is a festival day in itself. Then comes Lent and . . .

Then Comes Easter. . .

Early this last week our nearby villages were a bustle of activity as finishing touches were being added to businesses that were reopening having been in hibernation all winter. New paint, flower planters suddenly bursting with blooms -  all was made ready for Easter; a time that also seems to kick off the beginning of tourist season as well.

At midday on Good Friday a slow, mournful tolling of the village church bell in Agios Nikolaos seemed to start the weekend - it was such a sad, s-l-o-w chime that it seemed designed to match the footfalls to the cross on that long-ago day in Jerusalem. It was such a haunting sound that it gave you goose bumps . . .whether a believer or not!  Greek flags are flown at half staff that day, including on government buildings, to mark Christ's crucifixion.

The Bier awaits the Processional on Good Friday

That evening after dusk, a church service in Agios Nikolaos was followed by a processional - The Procession of the Epitaphos of Christ - through town in which the flower bedecked bier is carried. Similar services and professionals were taking place in cities and villages throughout Greece. We didn't make it to town for that activity, opting instead to visit the bier in church in the afternoon.


Saturday night, however, we joined the hundreds who turned out for the midnight (closer to 11:30 p.m.) service and lighting of the white candles from the single candle, the Holy Light, that was lit by the village Papas, Priest, to signify the Resurrection. (It is said if you make it home and your candle is still lit you will have good luck.)





'Christos Aneste! - Christ is Risen!' calls the Papas
'Alithos Anesti! - Truly He is Risen!' - comes the Response




And it was time to light the candles. . .and set off the fireworks.



Then came the feasting on Sunday. . .

The smell of roasting lambs filled the air in villages throughout the valley

Traditional red eggs on the table

So much food we had to use chairs - this doesn't show all the food that came to the table
We joined two sets of our neighbors at a restaurant in one of the small villages up in the Taygetos Mountains that frame our valley.  The place was packed with Greeks, ex pats and a few tourists.  Throughout The Mani  restaurants were cooking up feasts and serving meals over the course of the afternoon. We began our dining at 1 p.m. and ended three hours later. What a feast! The menu included roast pork, roast lamb, zucchini pie, spicy cheese, tzatziki, beets, roasted potatoes, salad, bread and traditional Greek Easter bread for dessert - so much that we didn't have room for it all on the table.

I couldn't help but note that while traditions are strong in Greece, technology -- as it is everywhere - is now a part of life.

Cell phones and candles - tradition and technology

A family's feast - and a selfie or two to remember it all!

Yes, Easter Monday, is a much needed day of rest for everyone.  It's a day filled with wonderful memories and a chance to start anticipating next year's festivities.

If you were among those celebrating this weekend, a big Kala Pasha! to you. And to all of you, thanks for again being with us.  We appreciate your time and wish you happy travels~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
 Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blessing the Water ~ in Greece

Theophany ~ the ‘showing forth of God’ or the ‘manifestation of God’
We were lucky to have our recent time in Greece encompass holidays. While Christmas and New Year’s Day were both were celebrated, neither came close though to the festivities in our village of Agios Nikolaos for January 6th’s Feast of Theophany, or Epiphany.

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Agios Nickolas fishing port and main road
In the Christian world, Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas, pays tribute to the baptism of Christ when for the the first time the Holy Trinity appeared before mankind. Here the Orthodox Church celebrates the day, with Megas Agiamor, one of three types of Blessing of the Water that is done throughout the year by the church.

The season’s unusual cold spell that brought temperatures to all-time low’s and blanketed parts of the country with snow, had threatened to drive the religious celebration indoors. “If the weather is good enough it will likely take place at 10 in the morning,” we were told, ‘if it is bad it will take place in the church.”

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The procession from the church to the waterfront in Ag. Nikolaos
The previous day’s storm winds died and clouds disappeared during the night. We woke to a cold, but blue sky day. The processional from the church to the water’s edge, took place around 10:30.

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The processional - Jan. 6, 2015
The Priests were keepers of the Gospel and the Cross that would be blessed and tossed into the water a total of three times before the ceremony ended. The first two tosses, all part of the  service, seemed like practice runs to those of us less well-versed in the tradition.

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The crowd gathered around the priests and the young robed assistants took their place at the water’s edge.

DSCF2962
 
DSCF2963A blessing and a toss. . .while across the harbor, young men – members of the congregation readied themselves for the bone-chilling water . . .










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The Cross is tossed. . .the race was on. . .

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One of the three would be the first to reach the Cross.  That young man received a cash prize from the church. Then as tradition dictates, he added more to his ‘catch’ by taking it house-to-house and person-to-person blessing places and people who in turn made small donations – that he would get to keep.

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This year's cross-bearer conducted blessings of homes and people
While he went to work delivering blessings, the gathered villagers celebrated, greeting each other and sipping a bit of Greek brandy, Mextaca, which had been served in plastic cups to the assembled. Some of us, like my friend Sue and I, returned to the cafĂ© to finish our coffee and tea we’d been sipping while waiting for the processional to appear – we’d dashed off to watch the ceremony like everyone else. Our cups were where we’d left them . . .no one worried whether we’d return to pay or not. . .that’s the way it is in this village.

PicMonkey Collage
 
Thanks for stopping by – we always appreciate the time you spend with us.  Hope you’ll take a moment to comment, we love hearing from you! In our next post, we'll tell you how to get to this wonderful little village and our Stone House on the Hill.

This week’s link ups are with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route  
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

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