Paros Island

Customs & Festivities

People visiting Paros will definitely have the opportunity to watch or participate in one of the many festivities that often take place on Paros, related mostly to church celebrations and helping to keep the unique Cycladic style. In the old times these festivities were an opportunity for the young people to meet, enjoy themselves, dance and flirt. A lot of these romances ended in marriages.

The progress of modern life has of course affected these traditional festivities. Traditions like carrying church icons about in procession, taped music or spectacular fireworks, show the adjustment to modern life.

The band, called violia (violins), combines melodies of the island with the sound of violin, accordion, lute and clarinet, with Balos being the main dancing style. Balos is the typical island dancing style that according to tradition shows the way a pirate flirts with a woman and how, by the way the woman dances in front of him, she accepts or denies his love. The tables are positioned almost as an amphitheatre in order to give enough space for people to dance and enjoy themselves, sometimes till the early morning.

Parians, as all Cycladians, love dancing and singing and they have always been resourceful in games and song lyrics. In Kostos for example at Easter time until some years ago they had the custom of playing the game of “kounia” (swing). All the inhabitants of the village put money together to buy a rope, they fixed in a central square two beams and they tied the rope to them. Girls and boys had fun, laughing and singing, by trying to swing on the rope, if alone with a pillow, if together with others with a piece of wood, one sitting in front of the other.

During the period of the carnival people dress up and run around visiting the houses of the area to sing and collect sweets.

The traditional dance of this period is called Ageranos. The dancers move in a circle holding shoulders and form a labyrinth while they make up lyrics. The songs have either erotic or other general themes from everyday life, according to the mood of the company.

Regarding the dance some say it comes from ancient times when Theseus and his companions danced it on Delos when they came back from Crete and represented the way Minoa was wandering in his labyrinth. Another explanation attributes it to the circular flying of cranes when a storm is coming.

Easter consider to be the best time in Paros, therefore the number of visitors who come to enjoy the local customs and try the Parian delicacies increases considerably.

In all the villages on Good Friday the custom of the epitaph of Christ is kept. In Parikia it is especially interesting, because the beautifully decorated epitaph of three churches, having made a procession, meets at the port.

The ones that really steal the show though are in Marmara and Marpissa. Before the procession of the epitaph there are representations of the Palm Sunday, Passion Week, Calvary, and the Crucifixion, the hanging of Judas, taking down of the cross, the burial and the sleeping Roman soldiers in front of the open grave. While the epitaph goes around the streets, young girls dressed as angels throw rose leaves on it until it reaches the entrance of the church where it is kept high up for people to pass under and get a blessing inside the church. These two villages compete every year as to who will make the best presentation and as a result we all enjoy a memorable beautiful show regardless which one we watch.

In Marpissa on Easter day the festivities end with meal of Love after the second Resurrection around 12:00h., an open party where grilled lamp and red eggs are offered and of course a lot of music and dancing.

1st Sunday of July, in Naousa is the festivity of the Fisherman or as it’s often known the festivity of the fish. The visitor will have a taste of the Parian traditional feast, where the musicians give the rhythm, traditional dancing groups come to life and sweep away people to dance and of course with plenty of wine and freshly cooked small fish.

Plenty of festivities during the summer is taking place all over Paros.

On the 8th of May is the celebration of Aghios Ioannis in Marathi and on the 21st of Aghios Constantine and Aghia Ellen in Parikia at the church of Ekatontapiliani. On the 25th of June is the feast of Aghios Athanasios Pariou in Kostos. In July the 17th is the feast of Aghia Marina in Marmara and in Kostos and on the 27th the one of Aghios Panteleimon in Prodromos and in Kostos. The celebration of Christ Metamorphosis takes place in Marpissa on the 6th of August and on the 18th the one of Aghios Arsenios in the Monastery of Christou Dasous. On the 29th of August the feast of Aghios Ioannis takes place in Lefkes and on the 27th of Aghios Phanouris in Ambelas, on the 8th of September the one of Pera Panagia in Marmara and on the 14th the big celebration of the Cross in Aliki.

The best known celebration all over Greece is the one for Panagia in Ekatontapiliani church on the 15th of August. Navy ships arrive one day before to participate in this great festivity. On the 15th the famous icon of Panagia (Virgin Mary) is escorted by the band of the navy in a procession round Parikia which begins and ends at the Ekatontapiliani church. Some years ago, close to the church was an open market with gifts, toys, ice-creams and other products, but over the years it became poorer smaller and moved further down the promenade on the right of the port. The celebrations of the15th of August continue also at night by the sea with traditional dancing and singing and fireworks fired from a fishing boat in the sea away from the port, a really spectacular night.

23rd of August another celebration that stands out is the one of Pantanassa in Naousa. This day is dedicated to the destruction of Naousa by the pirate Barbarossa, who burnt the village and stole the young women.

On that day all the fishing boats hide behind Aghia Kali, the small island in the middle of the gulf of Naousa. In the night and after the church service the boats all decorated with flowers and the men dressed as pirates, arrive at the port of Naousa with fireworks and flares. The “pirates” besiege the port, capture the girls and dance Balos among the spectators, trying to convince them to participate and dance with them.

24th of June in the old times on the Paros was celebrated the day of Kledonos one day before the day of Aghios Ioannis the Prodromos, but today it is limited only to Prodromos village. One day before the celebration people used to collect the flower garlands from the houses, they lit big fires in the central square of the village and everybody gathered around to sing and jump over the fire.

The young women of the island gathered in one house and filled a large ceramic pot, called paliatsa, with water and various objects, like apples with their name on, each one knowing to whom it belonged, and then covered the pot with a red scarf. Their aim was to find out whom they will marry.

The next day they called a small girl, covered her eyes with a piece of cloth and made her pick up the objects from the pot and give them back to the young women sitting around the pot singing. Most of the lyrics were made up spontaneously like “open the Klidona on Aghiou Yianni’s day and the lucky girl her own apple back, may take” or “by Aghiou Yianni grace, you may never feel the pain”.

After they had drunk the water from the pot, the “silent water”, they went outside. The first male name that they head would be the name of the young man they would marry in the future.

This custom is very common and very popular all over Greece with of course some local variations.

Nowadays young people are adjusting to new tendencies and only the older people try to keep and to revive traditions. It’s a harmonic co-existence of today and yesterday, of old and new.

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