We heard that there was to be some sort of local celebration in the village square, we assumed it would be linked to one or more saints – these things often are, and given the date had a connection to John the Baptist. We were told there would be live music and dancing and jumping over fires. Jumping over fires we are familiar with, this happens in Turkey earlier in the year. Anyway, we thought it would be fun to head up to the square, eat at the taverna, drink some beer, and watch the events unfold.
Fortunately a friend, Simon, had booked a table. We’d have been squeezed in somewhere but this was nearer the front and not indoors. So we settled down to chat and watch, chat for a while because nothing much was happening yet, and nothing much would happen until the sun went down.
What we witnessed was quite strange. Two figures draped in cloth and clearly unable to see were led into the square by groups of women, some in traditional dress. The figures were then seated and some sort of conversation or ritual took place between representatives. This was all in Greek, it was clearly poetic, and had elements of humour. One woman would say something, then there would be a retort, and this continued back and forth for some time. We had no idea what the content was but it was fascinating to watch. What was clear it that it was clearly female thing so probably not as linked to John the Baptist as we initially thought. After much applause the draped figures were led away.
Then there was traditional music and dancing. The dancing is familiar to us, it is very similar in Turkey. Same clothing, similar steps, but more mixing of male and female, so definitely not traditional Turkish where that would not happen. The music was particularly good, and we learned that the musicians were considered to be some of the best on the island.
At the same time three fires were lit on the street and there was some sort of traditional fire jumping. This was mostly children. Some would just jump over one fire, others who were more brave ran down the street and jumped each in succession. It was all watched carefully by adults and there were water extinguishers suitably placed just in case. Nothing unfortunate or bad happened, the children seem to have lots of fun.
Afterwards the musicians continued and there was more dancing. By this time we were very full of food, the taverna had kept up a supply to all the tables which must have taken some doing given how many tables there were many of which were piled up with plates for food. Needless to say the beer, wine and ouzo were also flowing.
Towards the end we were given a rolled up sheet with more details on what the earlier rite was about and an apology because it was all in Greek. More on this in a future post – Hilary translated it.
The evening ended rather abruptly when there was an orange glow in the sky from a field on fire and some ash being carried into the village. This caused some concern but it appeared the local fire service dealt with it quickly and no great harm was done.