Wednesday, 31 December 2008

White After-Christmas

It wasn't that cold in Molyvos that we had a white Christmas. But the flood of rains that poured down on the island after Christmas coloured the villages like Filia, Skalochoro, Anamotia, Argenos, Sykaminia and Agiasos fairy-tale white.

Just like in Turkey the top of the mountains are still white and when you drive up the landscape gets whiter the higher you come until you imagine yourself in the Swiss Alps. A few Greek people predicted a very cold winter, because of the many wasps this summer and the many chestnuts that made the trees so heavy they were bending down. Probally signs for a heavy winter.

Like I mentioned before, according to the Greeks winter here just starts in January and already now in December we have snow and an ice-cold nordeastern blowing. So what can we expect from the real approaching winter...

Thanks to the cold there are not so many people on the streets. And tonight, when the old year will end, many Greeks will be sitting close to the fire at a green clothed table, playing cards. Playing cards is very popular on Lesvos (and in many other parts of Greece) during the winter. Biriba is the most popular game here on Lesvos, a kind of canasta. Trying to pass all those long, cold and dark nights, on some tables big amounts of money will change hands. Playing cards is as well a New Years Eve tradition: playing away the old year and while gambling entering the New Year. This night they will not play for large sums of money, in order that the losers won't have a too bad start of the year.

On New years Eve it is Agios Vasilis that visits many Greek homes to bring presents. This is the Greek variation for Saint Nicolas and Santa Claus, who do not appear in Greece on the 5th and 25th of December. Agios Vasilis comes during New Years Eve and the children wait patiently for him to receive their presents.

In France there is a cake known as a Epiphany cake (galette des rois); a kind of cake where they hide a little sculpture of a king and the one who finds it will be crowned and be a king for one day (6th of January). In Greece this cake is the vasilopita that gets served on the 1st of January. There should be hidden a golden coin and many a Greek will have broken a tooth or two on this gold. I never found a golden coin in my vasilopita, but instead an entire almond or walnut, what brought me luck for the coming year. According to the tradition the father should cut the cake. The first piece goes to Christ (did some monasteries get so rich thanks to the golden coins out of the vasilopita's?), the second part is for the house and then the cake is divided between all the family members.

For another Greek tradition that brings luck for the New Year you need a pomegranate: after midnight, when you exchanged all your New year wishes you go outside with a glass of water that you pour out into three wind directions saying: "Kalimera, Agios Vasilikos." Then you take a stone that you use to smash a pomegranate inside the house, just next to the front door. You leave the smashed pomegranate for some days and the you throw the remains out over a field.

Well, those are enough Greek traditions to bring you luck for the new year. I wish you all a very happy 2009!

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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