Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Epiphany in Greece

An ancient ceremony lives on

Fotini Eleftheriadou
Writes from Athens, Greece
View her websites: Fotini's Site, Fotini's Space

January the sixth and in Greece we celebrate the Light. It is the celebration of Epiphany or Theophania (Theophany) or Fota (the most common word for this celebration).

I will start my blog with the announcement of the event with the most pleasant way, the Epiphany's carols which is a custom to be sung by children who visit every home the day before the celebration. Choose the link to hear them singing about the blessing of the water.

Today is the lights and the enlightment
The happiness is big and the sanctification
Down the Jordan River
Sits our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary
She carries an organ, a candle she holds
And pleads with St. John.
St. John lord and Baptist
Baptize this divine child of mine
I shall ascend to the heavens
To gather roses and incense
Good day, good day
Good day to you master and the missus.

and in Greek

Σήμερα τα φώτα κι ο φωτισμός
η χαρά μεγάλη κι ο αγιασμός.
Κάτω στον Ιορδάνη τον ποταμό
κάθετ' η κυρά μας η Παναγιά.
'Οργανoβαστάει, κερί κρατεί
και τον Αϊ-Γιάννη παρακαλεί.
'Αϊ-Γιάννη αφέντη και βαπτιστή
βάπτισε κι εμένα Θεού παιδί.
Ν' ανεβώ στον ουρανό
να μαζέψω ρόδα και λίβανο.

Theophania is the third and last holiday of the Dodecameron, the day of Catharsis of Nature and purification of people's souls. Epiphany was first established in the 2 nd century A.D., in Egypt. It is not certain when it was adopted by the Eastern Christian Orthodox Church. It is well known, however, that in the 4 th century, Christmas, Christ's Baptism and the first miracle were all celebrated together in the town of Kana in Gallilee. During this period, Epiphany was gradually adopted as a holiday by the Western churches with Rome being the last.

Theophania is the Feast which reveals the Most Holy Trinity to the world through the Baptism of the Lord. God the Father spoke from Heaven about the Son, the Son was baptized by the St. John the Forerunner, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the Son in the form of a dove.
From ancient times this Feast was called the Day of Illumination and the Feast of Lights, since God is Light and has appeared to illumine "those who sat in darkness," and "in the region of the shadow of death" and to save the fallen race of mankind by grace. Theophania, or 'The Blessing of the Waters', is held every year on January 6 throughout all of Greece .

A long procession is formed and follows whatever road that leads to a body of water - the sea, a river or even a reservoir. Up in front of the procession are the cherub icons, followed by the priests dressed in their best holiday splendor, then the VIPs, followed by all the people. In the bigger cities, the procession becomes more elaborate with the addition of music and military contingents.

At this special occasion many daring young Greek men brave the chilly waters to dive for a cross after it has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. For his gallantry, the first man who recovers the cross is said to have good luck throughout the coming year.

The day long festival also features the blessing of small boats and ships, and later on affords entertainment, music, dancing and food to all those present.

The priest with the company of the man who recovers the cross visit after the end of ceremony, every home at the area of the church to bless it with the holy water which has been prepared at the ceremony.

Something that comes from the Greek tradition and customs is the myth of Kallikantzari. There are a number of beliefs connected with the Killikantzari, who appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany (January 6).

Kalikantzari, or the devil Spirits, are small blackish and hairy creatures, with long arms and tail, who reside in the bowels of the earth. With a big saw, they compete to cut down the huge wooden stake which holds the earth in place. But the column is very thick and the sawing seems to go on forever.

Right before Christmas, however, they almost accomplish their mission and the column seems ready to fall. Overjoyed by their almost successful effort, but also fearful that the earth will topple over on their heads, they rush to the top to bother and annoy the people.

Thousands of these creatures come up to the surface from every hole or crack they can find. However, they are very much afraid of the light, so they hide during the day. But at night - that's when they strike! As soon as it's dark, they scramble from their hiding places to taunt and menace people. Because they are small, some even very tiny, they can get into the homes through chimneys, keyholes, even from the little cracks on windows and doors.

They enjoy lollygagging around in places like oil vats, frying pans, oily pots and dishes, and they really get a kick out of soiling food with their filthy fingernails and leaving their excrement all over the place. About the only good thing that can be said about these nasty pests is that they never steal anything - oh, but what a mess!

Their name comes from the adjective, kalos, meaning good, and kantharos, the word for beetle. The beginning of the myth regarding the Christmastide Sprites can be found in ancient times. The people of that time believed that when the souls in Hades found the door open they would come up to our world and make the rounds among people without any restrictions.

Much later the Byzantines celebrated with music, song and masquerading. Because the people hid their faces they were shameless and behaved boldly. They would bother people on the street, and go into the homes uninvited, pestering the people by continuously asking for sausages and sweets. The homeowners would slam the doors and shut the windows, but the persistent masqueraders would always find a point of entry - like coming down the chimney.

All this activity would occur during the 12 days of Christmas and on the Epiphany. Then, after the big sanctification all would become calm again as the people settled back down into their normal routine.

Today, the Kalikantzaroi disappear during the celebration of the lights, after the waters are blessed by the priests. As those pesky little creatures depart, you can hear them saying: "Leave we shall, because the crazy priest has arrived with his incense burner and his holy water.

During Theophania or Fota I celebrate my Name Day. My name as you know is Fotini and comes from the Greek word Fos which means light and as Theophania is the celebration of Lights the Greeks with the names Fotis (male), Fotini (female), Theophanis (male) and Ourania (female name, the Greek word for heaven) open their homes to accept the wish "Ηronia Polla" (good health) from friends and family members.

Some information now about the meaning of the Name Day for Greeks. Name Day is the day that our name celebrates. We use to have names that comes from Saints' names or from religious events. Every day in my culture belong to a Saint or a religious event and the person who have this name feel honored and celebrate it.

Name day is more important than our birthday. All the people that know us and our name check their calendar and know who celebrates every day and send their wishes to them.
The people who celebrate their Name Day open their home to everybody. They have sweets and drinks and open hugs to welcome their friends who come with presents to wish them the "Ηronia Polla".

Greeks have traditionally close family and wide friendship relationships and these celebrations help a lot to bring us closer.

Unfortunately our life make us to leave isolated at our homes and the old way of living has been made a dream for us. We work too many hours and we are too tired after the work to see our friends as happened at the past when the time of the dinner at the middle of the day was a holy time. The family sat down, around the table, discussing everything there. At the evening was the time we visited each other's home to see our friends or just sitting at our yards and our friends come from everywhere to see us.
Now... we work so much that we don't have time for human relationships... we stay tight closed to our shell... isolated from the other world.
It is my Name Day in this day and I have chosen to open my home (my web pages) for you offering my hugs to all my friends who will come to wish me "Chronia Polla".I have ready the "kerasma" (the treat) which is: Small chocolates, as the sweet the "Karidopita" (pie with nuts and chocolate) and as a drink the "Vin Doux", a desert wine from Samos.
Welcome all my friends!

Fotini Eleftheriadou
Writes from Athens, Greece
View her website: Fotini's Site, Fotini's Space
Στις 6 Ιανουαρίου, στην Ελλάδα γιορτάζουμε το Φως. Είναι ο εορτασμός των Θεοφανείων ή τα Φώτα που χρησιμοποιείται πιο πολύ στην καθομιλουμένη. Θα αρχίσω με τα κάλαντα των Θεοφανείων που είναι ένα έθιμο, με τα παιδιά να τα τραγουδούν στα σπίτια που επισκέπτονται ανήμερα της γιορτής. Επιλέξτε το σύνδεσμο για να ακούσετε τα κάλαντα.

Today is the lights and the enlightment
The happiness is big and the sanctification
Down the Jordan River
Sits our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary
She carries an organ, a candle she holds
And pleads with St. John.
St. John lord and Baptist
Baptize this divine child of mine
I shall ascend to the heavens
To gather roses and incense
Good day, good day
Good day to you master and the missus.
and in Greek

Σήμερα τα φώτα κι ο φωτισμός
η χαρά μεγάλη κι ο αγιασμός.
Κάτω στον Ιορδάνη τον ποταμό
κάθετ' η κυρά μας η Παναγιά.
'Οργανoβαστάει, κερί κρατεί
και τον Αϊ-Γιάννη παρακαλεί.
'Αϊ-Γιάννη αφέντη και βαπτιστή
βάπτισε κι εμένα Θεού παιδί.
Ν' ανεβώ στον ουρανό
να μαζέψω ρόδα και λίβανο.

Τα Θεοφάνεια είναι η τρίτη και τελευταία γιορτή του Δωδεκαημέρου, η ημέρα της Κάθαρσης της Φύσης και των ψυχών των ανθρώπων. Τα Θεοφάνεια καθιερώθηκε ως γιορτή για πρώτη φορά τον 2ο αιώνα μ.Χ., στην Αίγυπτο. Δεν είναι βέβαιο κατά πόσο υιοθετήθηκε από την Ανατολική Ορθόδοξη Χριστιανική Εκκλησία. Είναι ωστόσο πολύ γνωστό, ότι τον 4ο αιώνα, τα Χριστούγεννα, η Βάπτιση του Χριστού και το πρώτο θαύμα γιορτάστηκαν μαζί στην πόλη της Κανά στη Γαλιλαία. Κατά την περίοδο αυτή, τα Θεοφάνεια υιοθετούνται σταδιακά ως αργία και από τις Δυτικές εκκλησίες με τελευταία τη Ρώμη.

Τα Θεοφάνεια ή «ο Αγιασμός των Υδάτων», πραγματοποιείται κάθε χρόνο στις 6 Ιανουαρίου σε όλη την Ελλάδα. Σχηματίζεται μια μεγάλη πομπή που καταλήγει στο υγρό στοιχείο - τη θάλασσα, ένα ποτάμι ή ακόμη και μια δεξαμενή. Επί κεφαλής της πομπής είναι οι άγιες εικόνες με τα εξαπτέρυγα, ακολουθούν οι ιερείς ντυμένοι με τα γιορτινά τους άμφια, οι επίσημοι και τέλος ο κόσμος. Σε μεγαλύτερες πόλεις, η πομπή ακολουθείται από μουσικό άγημα και στρατιωτικό τμήμα. Σε αυτή την ειδική τελετή πολλοί τολμηροί νέοι βουτούν στα παγωμένα νερά για να πιάσουν τον σταυρό που ρίχνει ο ιερέας στο νερό. Αυτός που καταφέρνει πρώτος να πιάσει τον σταυρό, λέγεται ότι θα έχει καλή τύχη στη διάρκεια του χρόνου.

Ευλογούνται επίσης, οι βάρκες και τα μικρά πλεούμενα. Η γιορτή ολοκληρώνεται με μουσική, ψυχαγωγία, χορό και φαγητό. Μετά την τελετή, ο ιερέας με τη βοήθεια του ατόμου που έπιασε τον σταυρό επισκέπτεται τα σπίτια της ενορίας του και ευλογεί με το αγιασμένο νερό.
Κάτι που προέρχεται από την ελληνική παράδοση και έθιμα είναι ο μύθο για τους Καλικάντζαρους. Υπάρχουν πολλές ιστορίες που σχετίζονται με τους Καλικάντζαρους, οι οποίοι εμφανίζονται μόνο κατά τη διάρκεια του Δωδεκαημέρου από την περίοδο των Χριστουγέννων μέχρι τα Θεοφάνεια.

Οι Καλικάντζαροι ή τα δαιμονισμένα πνεύματα, είναι μικρές και μαυριδερές φιγούρες, με μακριά ουρά και χέρια, που κατοικούν στα σπλάχνα της γης.
Χιλιάδες από αυτά τα πλάσματα έρχονται στην επιφάνεια από κάθε τρύπα ή ρωγμή που μπορεί να υπάρχει. Ωστόσο, φοβούνται πολύ το φως, ώστε τη μέρα κρύβονται. Αλλά τη νύχτα δραστηριοποιούνται!

Το όνομα προέρχεται από το επίθετο, καλός και κάνθαρος, τη χρυσόμυγα. Η αρχή του μύθου με τα Χριστουγεννιάτικα Πνεύματα μπορεί να βρεθεί στα αρχαία χρόνια. Οι άνθρωποι εκείνης της εποχής πίστευαν ότι όταν οι ψυχές στον Άδη βρουν ανοικτή την πόρτα, θα έρθουν στον κόσμο μας χωρίς κανένα περιορισμό.

Πολύ αργότερα οι Βυζαντινοί γιόρταζαν με μουσική, τραγούδι και μασκαρέματα. Επειδή οι άνθρωποι έκρυβαν τα πρόσωπά τους, συμπεριφέρονταν χωρίς ντροπή. Ενοχλούσαν τους ανθρώπους στο δρόμο, πήγαιναν απρόσκλητοι σε σπίτια και ζητούσαν φαγώσιμα και γλυκά.
Today, the Kalikantzaroi disappear during the celebration of the lights, after the waters are blessed by the priests. As those pesky little creatures depart, you can hear them saying: "Leave we shall, because the crazy priest has arrived with his incense burner and his holy water.

Σήμερα, οι Καλικάντζαροι εξαφανίζονται κατά τη διάρκεια του εορτασμού των Θεοφανείων, μετά τον αγιασμό των υδάτων. Κατά τη διάρκεια των Θεοφανείων ή των Φώτων έχω τη ονομαστική μου γιορτή. Το όνομα μου είναι Φωτεινή και προέρχεται από την ελληνική λέξη που σημαίνει φως.
Φωτεινή Ελευθεριάδου

12 comments:

JamanFou said...

Χρόνια σου πολλά!! γεμάτα με φως, υγεία και ταξίδια

PUSANG-gala said...

really is interesting to know that Greece is a very religious country. Makes me happy. Good thing you were able to maintain that despite the modernization and economic growth. This is a big contrast in continental Europe wherein it's very common to see empty churches on Sundays~~~~

Phivos Nicolaides said...

JamanFou. Ευχαριστούμε Ιωάννα πάρα πολύ!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Pusang-gala. Thank you for your kind comment.

Fida said...

Wow, that is such an interesting article. Thank you for that education!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Fida. Glad you like the 'educational' trip, back to the future!!! Best regards. Philip

PUSANG-gala said...

Phivos Nicolaides --thank you very much sir---my honor. and my email is pakaleklalawak@yahoo.com

the address is a bit complicated....keke

Cheryl said...

First, Hronia Polla to Fotini!
Next, what an amazing post! A fantastic explanation/description of the day and all of its events...great pics too!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Pusang-gala. Thank you very much.

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Cheryl Hronia Polla to you as well. Very nice to see you around!!

the donG said...

that's a very interesting tradition. here in the philippines, january is a month of the feast of the holy child Jesus. so festivals like dinagyang, sinulog, and ati atihan is being celebrated. hope that you get to see it.

Phivos Nicolaides said...

The Dong. There are a lot of Greek traditions goin on form the past.