by Karin Shepherd, 2003
We watched the build-up to Christmas on Paros quite keenly with very little expectations of anything very exciting. (As told me by friends who have lived here awhile). So I was pleasantly surprised to find that in the main square in Parikia is a nativity scene and a large Christmas tree shape made of lights. Some shops, there are few open in winter, have Christmas lights in them, and also a fairly good attempt at window decorations by some.
The bakeries also have added fancy pastries that up till now, I have not seen. One is something like the Russian Tea Cakes that my daughter used to make for us at Christmas. Hers however are better. These seem less interesting, I think, because of the absence of anise seed. Also several shapes of honey sweets, sort of like long pasta noodles wound up and honey/sugar put over them.
I have seen in the supermarket in Parikia and also a Bargain Store, all sorts of Christmas Tree ornaments. Some very nice ones! In fact, I do not see a lot of Japanese or Chinese junk, these being mostly better quality and quite reasonably priced. I bought us a small fake green tree, which is the first time ever not to have a real one. I almost feel it necessary to apologise, since selecting and cutting a real tree still seems the only way to go! Our little tree sits on the end of the kitchen table, and we decorated it with little things found around the house: Very Creative – an earring, a fancy postage stamp, a bull ornament from a TEX MEX restaurant in the States, a Chinese thingie, and pieces of candy. Also a colourful little flat rock with a hole exactly in the centre! and some lovely yellow balls from a local bush that when they open become wonderful red seed pods that do not expel their seeds all over! (not yet, anyway) A sweet angel from a magazine cutout graces the top. Under the tree we have a miniature 3-sided icon where I have placed a few natural treasures: a few small shells that I find very pretty. Not very religious, I suppose, but it is nice to me. We have strung coloured lights in the sitting room, and another set in the kitchen.
In Aliki we do see the odd house here and there with lights strung up and around cactus, and trees including a small fishing boat up on the rock seawall with it’s mast lit up. The small market here had a stand with chocolate Santa Clauses and other fancy boxed sweets. That was about all.
The radio has been playing some American carols. I must explain about that, because when I first sung Christmas Carols from a hymnal in Ireland, I was shocked and disappointed that the tunes were completely different than those I grew up with! (I might add it was told me that it was the Americans that changed the tunes, not they!) The carols we are hearing today on the radio are sung in good old American English. Some the old traditional ones, some newer. Even some by Elvis!
One interesting event that takes place the day BEFORE Christmas is the kalandra singers. A group of young kids come to your house or business with a little metal triangle that you hit with a small metal stick. They sing a tune that sounds familiar but the words are in Greek. Once I knew it to be Jingle Bells, but they do sing other small rounds. The pay off is a Euro out of the till! When we were in the video store, inside of 15 minutes she had paid out nearly 5 Euros! Definitely not a good day for making money! But she was smiling as she paid out, so guess she takes it in stride…
Something odd about Christmas Day: not one church bell has rung! If I looked out, I would think it was just another ho-hum normal day! I was told that Christmas is low key and Easter is when it ALL HAPPENS, the hoopla and events!
I am making an Irish Stew complete with Guinness, mushrooms, potatoes and broccoli. For dessert we will have a grilled fresh banana served with honey, etc. Complete with a good red Macedonian wine we tasted in a restaurant in Athens. Michael made salsa last night and so we are filling up on that and chips!