Welcome to these accounts of some of our experiences on Paros.
The Greek Calendar with a whole year of festivals through out Greece is HERE
Our Paros pages are full of more details and photos of the many activities on our island--water sports, art, antiquities, beaches--something for everyone.
Let's start with summer! Autumn, Winter and Spring follow below.
The first time we heard about this bonfire night, we went to the one in Noussa. Not knowing what to expect, we were amazed that the fire was put in the middle of a concrete bridge that spans a small stream at the port and taverna area.
There were lots of people milling around, the fire was being fed more and more wood, making it brighter, hotter and flames shooting higher! Anticipation mounted, but nothing else happening! After a long while of wondering if this was all that might be happening--the fire was down to nothing but hot embers--we watched the crowd move aside to allow a group of women and children bring dried out May Day wreaths which they tossed onto the fire.
They burned rapidly, reducing it once again into hot coals. Then it got exciting…because suddenly, without my realizing it, a young man took a running leap and cleared the fire by mere inches! The crowd roared with approval, which then encouraged a few more athletic youths to give it a try! Clapping, jeering at each other, or words of encouragement to the less brave--the air was filled with flying youngsters, all bravely showing off their leaping skills.
Well, after nearly an hour of that, with the fire rising and falling as late arriving wreaths were thrown in, we watched what appeared to be the local school marm lifting her skirts and leaping with the best of them! Now, that was shocking! But not to the Greeks, because now the air was filled with leaping ladies!
After the fire died down to almost nothing, the tourists wandered off to visit their favourite taverna and continue the festivities with drinks and mezdes while the locals head home for their typical late night dinner.
Another June we went to Alyki’s festival. It is the same, except it is held on the sand of the central beach, and not so many older women jump, but I noticed teenage girls were not to be outdone by the young men! Also, on the beach there is a long table set up where they serve free suma, cucumbers and small fried fishes to nibble. After a healthy sample of the local drink some of the "adults" join in the jumping as well--more tourists then locals, I think. When all the hoopla settles down, again, the tavernas do a big business with late night diners and ouzo drinkers!
I really enjoy this festival. It seems a fitting end to a dead wreath. Once they adorned the doors of Greek houses, now they have been properly disposed of with a lot of fun involved. I have been told this is a very ancient tradition…. building bonfires where young men and young ladies leap over to impress the other sex! I can imagine many a romance has started this way….
July and August:
Read about Aliki's 6 August event below. Other island villages are under September below.
This a busy time for the island of Paros with so many events it is impossible to attend them all! There is certainly something for everyone from professional windsurfing exhibitions to local art sales. Concerts, theatre, dance, cooking classes, yoga, meditation, techno music beach parties . . .
Dates and open times can be found in the local English language publication, Paros Life, available for 1 Euro in any bookstore. Watch for flyers posted as well--but check the dates; posters always go up but seldom come down.
Local festivals: These happy occasions take place almost weekly all summer in some village on the island. They correspond to the religious saint of that particular village. It can be a evening event, or an entire weekend. Usually it starts in the church, with a procession to follow. Then food is served for a few hours which consists of mezdes which are light snacks such as fried fishes, cucumber, and a drink called suma. Following that is usually traditional dancing put on by a local group who dress in national costumes. From then on, it is the locals time to finish with their own dancing and singing. A real party! If the particular village is on the sea, then an additional event is the fishing boats lit up after dark with flares…and sometimes, even fireworks. Often you will see a big banner advertising the singer or band who will be the entertainment. Paros Life also has a complete list.
Concerts: Paros has a new football field that is used for mega concerts at least once per year, drawing big names from Athens. Small villages also host music events, various hotels have concerts, which can be visiting musicians from abroad, or local ones. Sometimes they might be from the local art school that has a great music instructor who is proud to show off his and the singers skills! They are well worth attending for the cultural experience plus the talent.
Paros has more than one traditional dance group. They hold public performances through out the summer. Costuming, music and dance are used to demonstrate the varied history of the islands.
Art Galleries: Apothiki Gallery, Holland Tunnel Gallery are in Old Town in Parikia, various hotels around the island, and the Fotis Art Café at the little harbour in Naoussa -- here one can see local and visiting artists from abroad. Included are all forms of painters, sculpture (sometimes using Paros marble) or other mediums, and photography. There are also poetry readings (another art form) written by local poets and sometimes set to music by local musicians. More on art on Paros Here and Here
Workshops: Tao’s, in Ambelas, is a centre for tai massage, yoga, or for just a visit. The site is beautiful. On premises is an excellent Thai restaurant (open for lunches and dinners) plus an internet café. The House of Literature in our mountain village of Lefkes has workshops and other events and facilities for writers and translators. Read about their residency program HERE.
Other events might be a moonlight volleyball game at Molos Beach, guided tour through a monastery, a one day boat trip around Antiparos (the island 6 minutes away by ferry) or maybe a full moon dance in Drios.
Aliki has their own festival during high season, 6 August…which we all impatiently wait for. Days before it begins, the sandy beach is set up with a stage. Nothing else for a few days, then a lonely barbecue arrives. Early on the day of the event serving tables are set up and the tavernas are adding more tables and chairs, and rearranging for large groups.
Around dusk, one wonders if anything is going to happen after all, but true to Greek form, it does! About 9:00 PM musicians come, dancers outfitted in old fashioned regional costumes arrive in modern day cars, wine and mezdes (snacks) appear, and the barbecue is lit. Suddenly, in the snap of your fingers, the festival has started. The fish which is barbecuing is almost ready to be served, the musicians start their playing, the dancers come on stage, ready to give a good show! People are milling around, talking with friends, watching the show, either finding a table in a taverna, or just sitting on the stone walls. Children on bicycles weave in and out of the standing crowd, toddlers are carried on shoulders, and everyone is in a very festive mood.
When the club dancers finish on stage, the locals start their dancing both on stage and in the streets with traditional Greek dancing mixed in with modern. We don't know what happens next because we always go home long before the music ends.
15 August - The height of High Season - National Holiday of Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin Mary Read the national description here.
Locals, expatriates, and visitors all have a love/hate relationship with other people on their island; yet despite the inconveniences everyone will be on Paros on August 15. If you don't have a room, some churches are open for sleeping.
No one likes the crowds; even the business people have more than they can handle. Yet everyone has a great time either at the beach during the day or in town at night enjoying the festive spirit.
Our highlight after several years is the fireworks. They truly are the best I had ever experienced including USA Independence Day because there were several new ones that I had never seen before on TV or live. Life is good!
21 August – Enneamera tis Panaghias (9 Days of the Virgin Mary) – 4 day celebrations in Naoussa with boat parade bearing torches at night in port of Naoussa on 23rd
7 Sept – Festival of Virgin Mary in Marmara with mezes and local wine, music and traditional dancing.
13 – 14 Sept – Celebration of Timios Stavros (the Holy Cross) in Aliki and Angeria.This festival draws a crowd, as there is a dance exhibition and the usual mezdes offered to everyone.
24 Sept. – Virgin of the Myrtle festival near Marpissa
25 – 26 Sept. – Celebrations for St. John the Theologian in Drios, procession and cake and coffee and drink offered.
In September there are still plenty of art exhibitions in various places….but slowly winding down. It is always amazing to us that although the September weather is brilliant and the sea water still warm the crowds disappear. October has warm, sunny days and deserted beaches.
On Paros Christmas is celebrated in two ways. International, (the growing expat community) people sometimes leave to be with their families elsewhere, or sometimes the extended families come here. If they come here, they will find many similarities, but will also find it different.
More stores and shops now have Christmas window displays with Christmas lights and there are a few shops around that sell the usual Christmas tree ornaments, and yes, you can buy a large trees, but they are not real. The food market in Drios, which has many gourmet articles, stocks up with items such as cranberry sauce, mincemeats, and other Christmas trimmings for our Christmas dinner.
While we do have events, they are low keyed with little of the commercialism found in the big cities. We have a Christmas Bazaar, a concert in the local Catholic Church, festive decorations are put up in the square in front of the Greek Orthodox Church with the lighting of the Christmas tree, even Santa comes for a quick visit! The Women’s Organization of Paros sponsors a Christmas Carol song fest with songs in many languages…Dutch, German, English, French and Greek.
So, while Christmas is not as big an event as the rest of Europe and America, it is catching on. Still, it just seems less stressful! More Paros Christmas with photos here.
January 6 - Epiphany -- The blessing of the waters and young men diving for the lucky cross. See our Parikia, Paros photo album on Picasa Web
More Spring events yet to be written up. Here is a video of Aliki Carnavale
May Day photos are on our blog.
And so we start over again. You can read more details and see photos of our life in Greece on the Greek island of Paros on our not quite daily blog: Paros Paradise Blog You can use the Search facility on Blogger to find more information and photos about each experience.
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