Music, dancing, food and friends–the perfect combination for a festive summer evening. This is panegyri time and posters announcing village festivals are found everywhere.
Agios Ioannis, July 14, 2018
Each village has a church, and each church is named after a saint. Thus, each village holds its panegyri at the time of the church saint’s nameday or, if the nameday falls during a colder month, the festival is held in spring or summer. I attended panegyris in Amykles, Theologos and Agios Ioannis–three ancestral villages.
The photos and videos below depict the pure enjoyment of these festivities.
AGIOS IOANNIS (Sparta)
This is my “home village” — birthplace of three of my grandparents: Andreas Kostakos, Hariklia Aridas, and Ilias Papagiannakos. I attended its panegyri with my cousins, Eleni and Panorea Kostakos. Eleni was anxious to arrive early as she was concerned that we would not get a table. When we walked into the platea (town square) at 8:00, I thought her worries were not valid as the area was empty. That is, until I saw that people had “reserved” their places by scrawling their names across the paper tablecloths!
The Georgiades family has marked its spot!
Eleni (left) and Panorea Kostakos are holding our table; I wrote our surname on the cloth
Food vendors worked throughout the evening. The tantalizing smell of souvlaki, roasted corn, smoked ham and Greek desserts enticed long lines of hungry partygoers.
Souvlaki, the staple of Spartan diets
Roasted and smoked ham
Panorea in the dessert line
Live music, singers and dancing brought villagers together to celebrate their heritage and their village.
Traditional Greek music enhances the festivities
And of course, there is dancing!
The platea quickly filled to capacity as families and friends table-hopped. The decibel level of voice and music increased significantly as the night progressed.
The platea is filled
This is the village of my great-grandmother, Stathoula Zaharakis, daughter of Dimitrios Zaharakis of Theologos and Giannoula Zarafonitis of Amykles. Situated 6 km straight up a mountain, it is quaint and beautiful.
Theologos nestled in the mountains
Me, under the sprawling tree of the Theologos platea.
Last year, my cousin, Georgia Zaharakis, organized a Women’s Syllogos of Theologos to preserve and maintain the culture and heritage of the village and I joined their sisterhood. On July 8, the syllogos held a panegyri. I offered to help and was given the job of working with the tech crew. Being part of this was great fun, even though I scrambled to keep up with instructions given in rapid-fire Greek.
The technical crew, going over last minute details: l-r: Vassilis, Dimitra, Georgia.
The theme was centered on the grain harvest and making of bread. Video, literary readings and bread-making demonstrations brought the “feast of wheat” to life.
Village women demonstrate bread making
Over 300 people attended; the platea filled throughout the night
Women in traditional costumes, led by Vassilis Andronis, performed dances from all over the country.
And of course, the entire village also joined in!
The news media picked up this story; video and photos can be found here.
The ancient and historic village of Amykles was the home of my great-grandmother, Giannoula Zarafonitis. I visited Amykles early in my trip and wrote a post here. The syllogos of Amykles held a festival on June 3 to raise money to help the poor.
Invitation to Amykles festival, June 3, 2018
Under the shadow of the church, people congregated. A choir sang, and costumed men and women danced.
Men and women engage in traditional dance
These panegyris are an important part of the social fabric of Greece. Villagers are extremely proud of their Laconian heritage and the traditions of their village. As I joined these festivals, I remembered that I was participating in the same rituals as my grandparents and great-grandparents. Doing so is one of the joys of “going home.”