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Customs
 


Christmas - New Year's Eve

Many of the following customs have their beginning before the Turkish possession.

In Christmas, besides the necessary pig sticking, the Christ breads, the cookies and the almond toffees, since the old years, the carols – during the Christmas Eve- were the precursors of the celebration of Christmas.

At that time, they didn’t decorate a “tree”- this came to Greece in 1850 by the Bavarians of Othonas- they decorated, though, every kind of floatable with lights. That’s why today we decorate small ships on land. Since 1868 when the Cretans refugees had come to Poros, the “skaltsounia” were also added in the delicacies.

On the New Year’s Day besides the carols, the St Vasileios pie with the coin, the “melomakarona” (candies with honey) and the sugared short-breads, necessary was the “first foot”, which everybody wanted to be made by a little kid, who was naïve and pure. And the kid had to go with a pomegranate, which the kid was breaking, so that the house will be full like the pomegranate, or a rock, so that everybody would be strong like it. Of course, the homemakers were giving candies and money to the child.

During the old years, a big importance was given to the hunting of the goblins that for twelve days, as they believed (Christmas - the celebration of the Lights) were excruciating not only the humans but their animals too. That’s why after the benediction of the waters, they were taking holly water and were sprinkling every edge of their buildings, the people and the animals also.

Halloween

Halloween was celebrated in Poros since the very old times and the disguised people were the main characteristic of each era. Since the Halloween feast started, people were dressing either like Africans, or like Eptanesians, or like islanders, or they were wearing colourful clothes and self-made masks, they were going out on the streets in groups but there had been never organized a carnival like the one of Hydra, which is dated since the era of 1700 (it revived in 1974). Since 1999, the Municipality of Methana organizes a carnival with a significant success.

This fact doesn’t mean though that Halloween  wasn’t celebrated with cheer and dancing.  But the celebration was more familial, a point  of view that dominated due to the Arcadian  influence.

Many People from Chios, Smyrne and minor Asia in general, “brought” the custom of the “bell people”- disguised people with bells- but they didn’t draw the attention.

So, every kind of disguised people was a pleasant parenthesis but was not the reason for a mass celebration. Many Moraitans used to smudge themselves with smoke from the fireplace.

However, the inhabitants in Tsikno-Thursday were overcooking roast meat so that I would be smelled in the neighbourhood and were celebrating the “meaty” Halloween and then the “cheesy”, when the young men were stealing macaroni and were putting it under their pillow to dream of with which girl were thy going to get married.

The Halloween of the decade of 1960 included except of many other customs that are still preserved, disguises of young boys and girls, who were 15 until 25 years old, in Pounta, in Saint George and Mprinia, where they were dressed like Apachides of Athens, gypsies, signori, etc.

They were also singing various Halloween songs, like the “smelly lemon”, “listen to me to tell you about a great love”, these days have it”, “on a new boat I embarked”, etc.

Many times they were making a “maypole”. Those days, the youngest of the youth were also making the air balloons. A light garland, a pad of thin colourful paper and a cotton waste sprinkled with petrol or inside a can, which they were lighting up and were letting it to rise high. And they were competing who was going to construct the biggest one, and who was going to take it higher.

The day of the Uptake

On the Day of the Uptake, the inhabitants were going to the beaches for the “Hairy”, a rock with seaweeds which the girls were putting under their bed, so that they would dream the men who were going to get married with. In parallel, they were catching sea urchins, limpets, crabs and other sea species. Also, they were collecting sea water and were sprinkling the house and singing in the same time:

“Outside the fleas and the bedbugs, inside the hairy experience”.

Also, during the Day of the Uptake, they were collecting chamomile for the whole year and were putting out and were spreading out the entire trousseau on their balconies, so that they would be aerated

Easter

During Easter times, children were telling the carols on the eve of Lazarus, eating fish on Sunday and distributing branches from palm leaves and flowers at the church. About the traditions of Easter, the children were coming out to tell the Christmas carols on the morning of Good Friday, then the decoration of the Epitaph, the Procession, the red eggs, the Resurrection and the roasting spits.

From the old days the epitaphs of the four churches of St. George, St. Constantine, the Annunciation and Progymnastiriou meet in the main square in the Port singing 'The generations are all ...». Another tradition of Good Friday was the hanging and burning of Judas.

Other customs ...

On the first day of May, the famous garland was created, on which the Minor Asians and mostly the Smyrneans, were also putting garlic so that the evil eye could be avoided. Many girls, of Arvanetian or Megaritian background, were giving on that day a garland to their fiancés, with flowers that had gathered from house to house.

On the 4th of June, was celebrated in Poros, with a big festival, the feast of the Mother Mary the Merciful in Plaka, a celebration that nowhere else is being held. From the Eve of this day, clarinets, violins, side drums, drones, dulcimers were making an extreme performance, while the pigs and the lambs that were roasted on the roasting jack, were having an amazing smell, which was reaching to a long distance. People were having fun with the folkloric songs; they were eating and drinking, while various street vendors were promoting their trade.

This custom lasted until the year of 1960, after then it started to fade. Nowadays, an effort is being made to revive this custom. Relative festivals were held in Saint Panteleimonas of the lemon tree forest, during the day of the Savior and on the day of the celebration of Mother Mary.

However, the festival of Plaka was more picturesque and interesting because it had uniqueness

The jump over the fire of Saint John is a custom that we see to be held every now and then these days by people of younger age. But during the old days, it concerned both young and older people. Because after the jump of fire, the girls were taking a vessel and were filling it up with from three faucets with the “still water”. There calling it like this because from the moment they started until the time they would turn back, they shouldn’t speak to anyone.

After that, they were putting the “rizikaria” into the vessel, various objects with which they would see their destiny. They were covering it with a white cloth and on the day of Saint John, a first born young woman was taking the objects one by one out of the vessel and like Pythia did, she was telling the future of the interested woman. Many times, the attitude was satiric. So, that’s how the phrase “all these I am hearing in Klidonas” survived. Nowadays, the Municipality of Poros organizes the event “the jump of fire”.

On the day of the Cross, the villagers were taking to the church a part of the seeds that were going to sow during the first rains, so that the priest would bless them. Then, they were mixing them with other seeds that had had left on the icons and were the last ones of the previous harvest, and then with all the seeds that were going to sow (it was of no matter if they were wheat, barley, pulse etc).

The Peloponnesians had also transferred the custom of the roasting pan: on the day of the Cross, the children of the neighbourhood were taking a copper roasting pan, were going to the priest, he was giving a soul cake to them, they were cutting it in small pieces and the priest was sprinkling the pieces with “anama” (pure wine) and oil. Then, the children were going from house to house and they were sprinkling the seeds of each family with these pieces.

The Minor Asians brought also with them the custom of “rags”. When they wished for someone to get well, they were hanging rags from their clothes on a tree near the temple. However, this custom wasn’t kept in Poros, but it survives in other places until today.

The Peloponnesians, when wanting to beg Christ and the Saints to cure someone of their relatives, were hanging various clothes on the icons. After the clothes were blessed, they were putting them in auction and the benefits were given to the church.

The funeral customs haven’t been changed much today relatively to what was happening during the old years. The only ones that haven’t been kept are the putting down or the flipping of mirrors and photographs as well as the smash of the glass plate when the dead body exits the house.

Wedding and its customs

Much before the year of the 1821 and until 1920, the girls of Poros were married with the man that their father was choosing. As far as the customs of the wedding is concerned, there were various:

Arvanetean, moraitean, and insular in some cases, depending on the place of origin. Although the moraitean prevailed.

The engagement was happening before the wedding and this was the time that the groom was going to the bride’s house with gifts. Then and until the wedding, which was happening too soon though, the groom wasn’t allowed to see the bride again. At that time, the weddings weren’t happening during the Lent. And almost all the weddings were happening during the summertime. The marriage was happening always on Sunday. From the beginning of the wedding’s week, the friends of the bride, who were unmarried and pure as it was supposed, were helping her to be prepared. To prepare her wedding dress that was slowly evolving, with songs, like: "Today shines the sky, today shines the day, today the eagle marries the pigeon". And many others.

On the previous days, or even on the same day, the “proikia” (clothing) of the bride were delivered to the "proikologous", after they had been exposed for three days to the bride’s family house in order to be seen by her relatives. The "Proikologoi" that were receiving the “proikia”, were delivering to the bride gifts from the groom. When they did not transport the “proikia” to the house of the groom, where the bride would stay, they were leaving them at the door and the assembled people were sprinkling them with rice and were singing "my well-destined Bride”, etc.

The marriage (the crowning) was happening in the house of the bride, where the groom was going with his whole family, his friends, the people he invited, with the escort of an orchestra. If the house was near they were going in procession, on foot. If it was far, they were going by decorated horses that another one nice decorated horse was following, which was without a rider. This was intended for the bride in order to take her to the house of groom. On the front, running on a horse, the “sycharikiaris” (the man who announces the congratulation news) was going, with a scarf – flag on a stick with cross, in order to announce that "they were coming".

After the crowning, a very big fest was held, and also the relative gunfires were hit. On the evening, the groom was taking the bride and they were leaving. However the feast was continuing for three days, whenever in the house of the groom, and whenever in the house of the bride. These were the so-called "epistrofia".

During that time, they weren’t distributing bonbonnieres. If there were bonbons, these were on the disk. In any case, since those years, the free girls were taking bonbons from the disk in order to put them under their pillow. The relatives were giving meat, pies and other things for gifts. The narrowest relatives should be bringing an entire lamb. The groom and the bride were giving shoes to their parents and their parents-in-law for a gift.

Later when the fear that the groom may took the bride without marriage and left was absent, the marriages were also held in the house of the groom. And when after the tear of 1920 the marriages began to hold exclusively in the church, if the houses were near, the groom and the bride were going to the temple in procession on foot, with the orchestra playing. And after the wedding, they were firstly going at the house of the bride and then at the groom’s house and had fun. An irrefrangible custom for many years, in Poros also, was the custom of the demonstration of the bloody sheet, or the underwear of the bride - which for this case was open between the legs - after the first night of the marriage.

This was proving her purity and she would never wash them. She was having them as a proof. Of course, they may not be exposed in common view, but the mother-in-law had the obligation or even better, the right to see them and to realise. And it was a big shame, if the bride was not pure. They were exposing her as a prostitute and were sending her away. And such cases did exist. But also the opposite did exist. They hided it, but they gave a bigger “proika” to the groom, the “panoproiki”

Birth of a child

Graphic were the customs that were relative to the birth of a child (1800). The midwife was carrying the stool of birth – the selli - and when she was reaching at the house, she was opening the doors, the windows, the drawers; she was unlocking everything so that the child would come out easily. And those who helped should say that they saw an oil man on the street and his oil was poured, so that the baby would slip easily. If the labour was difficult, they were calling for the spouse, who was striking three times the ridge of the mother-to-be with his shoe and he was saying: "I was the one that charged you; I am the one that I unload you". After the birth, they were wrapping the mother with cloth, from the breast to the kidneys, in order not to get swelled. For eight days she wasn’t allowed to see the stars and when she was getting off the bed she was stepping on an iron. Also, they were wrapping the newborn, being careful not to wrap (!) any bad thing in, and were giving amulets to it.

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