Monday, 28 April 2008

Loud Speakers

I bet there are no village criers anymore in Europe. But they still exist, only now they are electronic criers. Here on the island, in each village they have an electronic village crier: everywhere there are loud-speakers that regularly announce important messages from the municipality. They announce for example when the electricity or the water will be cut because of repairs, they announce when there is a municipality meeting or when and where festivities will take place. But with this system you can also try to find your lost dog and people are even summoned to remove their car when they are parked in the wrong place (wich makes you the laughing stock of the town!).

We don't live in the village so we have no idea when it is forbidden to water your plants because there is not enough water, or at what time a concert will take place, which has been organised in the summer. That's good, because when I'm in the village and the village crier starts yelling messages I always get scared to death!

People living in the villages are used to it. For them it's a good way to stay tuned to what's happening in the village. But for people who are still not used to this electronic voice, the Holy Week which ends with Easter, was an ordeal, because the village crier is also used by the Church.

Masses in the Orthodox Church are very relaxed and look more like a social gathering than a Holy gathering. While the priest is saying the mass, the church-goers have only one ear and one eye cocked to the priest. The other eye and ear is for their fellow worshippers. They shake hands, they chat and they try to control their children, who are running and playing hide-and-seek between the legs of the adults. They all walk in and out of the church as if they were attending a reception.

What a difference to a catholic mass! I was raised a catholic and as a child I hated to go to church, where I had to attend an event that I didn't understand and where I had to keep quiet for at least an hour.

It's much easier for Greek children, because during the Orthodox celebrations they can run around with their friends. And for the adults it's also nicer. That's why most Greeks attend a mass at Easter: to meet friends and family and to exchange Easter greetings.

On Holy Saturday the Holy Light is flown in from Jerusalem to Athens, and from there to all other destinations and when this Holy Light arrives in the church around 23:00 the midnight mass can begin. A lot of people only go to church to be there at the height of the mass, around midnight, when the papas starts distributing the Holy Light to the church-goers who all brought a candle for the purpose. Then the church bells start ringing and fireworks are crackling in the night sky.

Christos Anexi (Christ has risen) is what you say to each other (though what a strange wish!). Then people hurry home to finally eat the long missed meat. They start with the majeritsa soup, made of the organs of the lamb that will later follow as a roasted or stuffed dish from the oven, served after the soup or the next day.

This Easter night I went to a friend in Petra who has a marvellous view of the beautiful church on the rock of Petra. And, very important that night, she has an open fire. Because although during the last few weeks the temperatures has tried more than once to reach 30°C, at Easter the winter cold seemed to have returned.

When the mass started, the chanting voice of the papas sounded through the loudspeakers and into the cozy warm living room. How luxuriously can you attend mass? At midnight the bells started ringing and hundreds of firecrackers were thrown from the huge rock. For some minutes fire works painted the sky with thousands of colourful stars, which made me feel like I was on a canal in Amsterdam on New Years Night. Happy Easter!

Between the firecrackers people started to descend slowly from the church, careful to keep their flames alive until they got home. But the priest kept on going with the mass. I thought that at midnight everybody went home for an Easter meal. But not the papas, he even had company from a second priest and together they chanted for another full hour. For whom, I asked myself...

This was not the only mass that was brought to you by the loudspeakers. All during the Holy Week before Easter masses were celebrated early in the morning or late at night. And you could attend all of them via the village crier! There was no escape: in the villages all important masses are served at home.

The Holy Fire from Jerusalem is called a miracle. But the weather can also be called a miracle, because it's starting to look like a tradition that the weather forecast for Easter is always bad. (by the way, there are no weather forecasts cried through the loudspeakers). Cold and rain, nice forecasts when you organised a souvla (roasted lamb over a fire). But on Sunday morning suddenly there was the sun and the blue sky. The fire under the lamb was not rained out and the guests were warmed by the sun. If that wasn't an Easter miracle...

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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