Sunday, September 23, 2007

Panigiria. Something that you have to live in Crete

To see the real people and customs of Crete, one must visit the villages of Crete. Typically, the more isolated the village, the more the local customs are preserved. The manifestations of the old traditions and customs are easy to observe in the local celebrations of the saints of each village, the panigiria, on the name day of the saint whose name was given to one of the churches of the village. The celebration varies from village to village, but typically, it involves long church liturgies attended by the people of the village. Many people who have moved away use this as an opportunity to visit their former villages and sometimes combine it with a baptism or wedding of their own. Music, dancing, and eating often take place in the center of the village the night before.

There are many local feast days, especially during the summer months, and it is easy to find one nearby to attend. Some of the celebrations are particularly interesting because they involve large groups of people hiking or taking small boats to a church or monastery in an isolated location.

On Agios Georgios Day (Saint George's Day) in Asigonia, Chania, the shepherds bring their goats and sheep from the high mountain pastures, (some taking 4 or 5 hours to reach Asigonia) to be blessed by the priest. In this celebration the animals are milked in front of the church, and the milk is boiled and served to the people. The Agios Georgios celebration is held before the Lenten season or on the day after Easter.