Folklore

Traditional Dances

“O Choros” (The Dance)

According to the witnesses of local scholars, “the dance” has its roots in antiquity and specifically in ancient Kallisteia where “Kallikeladai Virgins” danced. In the years that followed and especially during the times of Saracens, the invasions, the loots and the slaughter of the inhabitants were common practice in Lesbos as well as in other islands. The story of such an invasion to a settlement of Mandamados (Palios area) has been kept alive through the dance. The pirates captured the women and after killing their husbands, tortured them and forced them to dance. In remembrance of this disaster, the locals composed a song danced and sung by women.

During the week before Easter, all married and single women, while singing, danced in public places with simplicity and naivety. Obviously, this celebration is the remaining of an older ritual. In about 1821, this same dance is encountered in the town of Kidonies of Asia Minor.

In Mandamados, in the past century the dance was taught in Primary School to girls that learned how to sing and dance. The lyrics of the song that are preserved until today, talked about the beauty of Lesbos and its girls. This dance is “syrtos” (round dance), it is called Mantamadiotikos, but the name was not given by the locals, but by the visitors who saw the girls of Mandamados dance. In Mandamados it was simply called “the dance”. In Kidonies, men danced along with women, something that had to do with the “civilization” of this area. On the contrary, life in Mandamados was more strict and conservative.

In Mandamados, until 1980, young men would sing, under the windows of the girls which were decorated with basils and geraniums, the song “To kiparissi” ( The cypress). This song has really inspired lyrics, full of representations and was much loved by all the supporters of night love songs.

 

Ceremonies

THE TAXIARHIS FESTIVAL

The Taxiarhis celebration is held 15 days after Easter on Myrrh Sunday, which happens to be the day that the consecration of the church of the same name took place in 1888. This is quite possibly the biggest religious celebration on the island, with thousands of visitors flocking to Lesvos from throughout Greece and abroad.

This is the celebration of the patron and protector of Mandamados and the entire island, from a wide variety of invaders and of course the brutal Turkish yoke. Prior to the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922, owing to the blood ties that connected many islanders with their relatives on the Anatolian coast, thousands of pilgrims would attend the celebration. The residents of Aivali and Moshonisi would reach the shores of Lesvos with their boats, and from there they were picked up by the “kirasides” with their festively decorated horses and mules, who for a nominal fee known as “kiras” would drive them up to the village.

The celebrations would last for an entire week, with live music in the coffee shops, the churches full of local worshippers and pilgrims, and the merchants setting up their stands all over the city streets. Things are quite different today. The town’s streets and public spaces have been organized and beautified, making it more accessible and pleasant to all those attending the celebrations. The celebrations now last 3 days, and the music in the coffee shops has been limited, but the number of pious pilgrims that attend the church’s services is as large as it was decades ago. A common practice for many of the island’s residents is to make the journey to the Taxiarhis Church on foot, in order to pray before his Holy Icon.

The tradition of “Sacrificing the Bull” that survives to this day has its roots in ancient and early Christian times. In honor of the saint, a bull is sacrificed on the eve of his holiday after being blessed by the priest and the ceremony takes place under the old plane tree in the church courtyard. The pilgrims dab cotton swabs in the bull’s blood and mark a cross on their foreheads. Then the sacrificed bull’s meat is cut up and used in the preparation of the traditional “kiskets”, a dish that consists of meat and cream of wheat that’s boiled all night long in giant vats, until it becomes a stew. The next day the stew is distributed to the faithful after mass.
The Taxiarhis is also celebrated on November 8th, which is an official holiday on the island.

THE AGIOS STEFANOS FESTIVAL

The celebration in honor of Agios Stefanos takes place on August the 2nd at the community which bears its name.
People from all the surrounding communities attend the evening vespers on the day before the celebration in the quaint olive grove that surrounds the chapel. In years past, hundreds of people would make their way to Agios Stefanos by boat and steamer from all the surrounding coastal areas like Nees Kydonies, Mystegna and the shores of Asia Minor, where many of the locals’ relatives used to live. The musical celebrations lasted for an entire week, and the faithful would come and come on festively decorated mules and donkeys, as a paved road to the village had not yet been built, while music could be heard from the boats as they approached the shore, since the young men of the surrounding areas would go out for joyrides.

Today, a paved road leads to the chapel, and all the aforementioned means of transportation have been replaced by the automobile, while time considerations have limited the celebration to only two days, and most events take place in the adjacent vacation communities and taverns, rather than the church grounds.

THE SOTIRAS (SAVIOR) FESTIVAL

This celebration is held on the 5th and 6th of August at the chapel of the same name. On the second day, around noon, the faithful head down to Yeni Limani, while the celebrations’ highlight is the horse races that are held later that same afternoon and the subsequent feast in the main square. Something similar becomes also in the coastal seasonal region “Tsonia”.

“Feast of Aghioi Anargiroi”

Celebrated on July 1st in Klios, in a small chapel at the north side of the village. The village celebrates for two days, starting on the eve of July 1st, and ending with traditional dances in the little cafés.

“Feast of Aghios Tsirkos” (Kirikos and Ioulitis)

Celebrated on July 15th, in the chapel that has the same name, found in the peninsula “Korakas” of Klios. An area that offers a splendid view but also known for the strange rock that lies next to the chapel. This rock has a narrow passage through which only a child can go. According to tradition, even the biggest person can go through the passage as long as he has not sinned. The elder locals still have stories to tell about people that got stuck in the rock…

“Feast of Aghia Marina”

Celebrated on July 16th and 17th, in the chapel found in the plateau of Kavaklio.

“Feast of Panagia” (Virgin Mary)

Celebrated on August 14th and 15th in Kapi, at the Temple dedicated to Virgin Mary. The traditional “kiskets” is prepared and then, at night, it is offered to all those who celebrate in the village square.

“Feast of Aghios Giannis at Platania”

It is the last feast of the summer and is celebrated on August 28th and 29th in the rural area of “Platania”, Mandamados. According to researchers, there was an old small monastery in the area but also a settlement which most presumably dates back in the same era as the settlements on the beach. Ai Giannis (St. John) church was a meeting point and a worship place for the people of the settlement. Until today, locals keep to this custom. This celebration, to commemorate the beheading of Aghios Giannis Prodromos (St. John), calls for strict fast. This is why in the open air café, “kiskets”, a plate of plain chick-peas is served. Only this plate is blessed after the Mass. According to tradition, on this day, believers are not even allowed to cut a watermelon from its top, namely from “the head”, since this would be a sign of disrespect to the memory of Aghios Giannis.
The traditional orchestra is not missing from this festival either. Festivities begin with the entrance of horses on the dance floor, the moment the orchestra is performing the traditional “horse dance”.

On the top of Ai Lias or the “Mountain of Gelia”, on July 19th and 20th, the whole village celebrates the Saint’s memory for many centuries now. Horse riders from the entire island, on the backs of adorned horses, wander all night through on the mountain slopes so that they would get the Saint’s blessing during the morning Mass. Once the Mass is over, “kisket” is offered. In the yard of the Holy Temple lays the chapel of St. Apostles Peter and Paul, for whom a festival is held on June 29th.

 

 

Local Customs

Christmas Carols

Poor people, farmers and shepherds, loyal to their traditions and full of inspiration, record the miracle of the savior’s coming to earth in the traditional Mandamados’ carols. Heavens, the earth, the cave, the shepherds, the angels, everything is shines because of the divine light. The angels’ song is heard throughout the world, and so do carols that summon believers to attend the Mass and to celebrate this joyous event with a festive dinner.
That way, people will have the chance to approach their neighbors, to exchange wishes, to offer food and love to the poor. In other words, to return to the path of kindness and compassion. To feel the message, Jesus brought to this world, a world that lived in the darkness of ignorance and deception before His coming.

Christmas and New Year’s Mores

On Christmas Eve, people would throw ashes around their houses, while the bells were ringing, in order to prevent trolls from coming in. (Mandamados).
In Pelopi, in the past years, on Christmas Eve, people would not leave their fireplaces to die out. Throughout the night, women with the help of children, prepared cakes so that the fire would keep on burning, since the tradition said that Mother Mary used the fireplace to dry out Baby Jesus “clothes”.

Other would go out in their yards in midnight to look up to the sky. They believed that one could be lucky enough to see the great star that showed the way to Bethlehem. Should one saw it, he should make a wish and everyone believed this wish could come true.

“Bounamas” or “Baxisi”, namely the reward given to children for singing the carols was an orange or a few “woodhorns” (“kountaridia”, small candies shaped like sticks). Those who could afford it also gave money to children.

On New Year’s Eve, people decorated their houses and left traditional candies on the fireplaces. They whitened the fireplaces and placed a thick piece of wood in them so that Aghios Vassilis (Santa Claus) would come down the chimney to bring presents and bless the house.
In the morning, the custom of “podariko” (take the first step in the house on New Year’s Day), was performed from the first visitor. Housewives would fill a pot with water from Aghios Vassilis’ (Santa Claus) spring and next to the pot, they would leave a pomegranate, an olive tree branch and garlic. Whoever performed “podariko” would have to throw water from the pot at one of the houses’ corners and tell a wish.
After “podariko”, the housewife would offer candies to the visitor and wish him a Happy New Year. (Mandamados’ New Year’s Day Customs).

In Klio, even today, people invite the youngest child to do the “podariko”. The child has to say:
“Good morning to Aghios Vassilis, may the wallet of the master of the house be as heavy as I am, and may your joys be as many as the pomegranate seeds”.
Then the housewife, gives the child money and many sweets and in particular the traditional “baklavas”.

Bourets (boureki)

Ingredients

½ kg minced meat
1 medium sized onion
Some olive oil
1 bunch of chopped dill
1 bunch of chopped parsley
Salt, pepper, spice
1 cup of rice
2 parts of pastry

Preparation

Braise the meat with onion, oil, dill, parsley, salt, pepper, spice and add the rice. Stir for a few minutes. Place one part of pastry in the pan, add the stuffing and cover with the other pastry. Spread some oil and put the pan in the oven. Let roast at 200Co until the pastry turns brown.
(In the beginning of the century, but even earlier, “bourets” was roasted in the fireplace, on the embers. When the pastry was brown on its one size it was turned over.)

Melomakarona or finikia or psathouria

Ingredients

2 glasses of olive oil
1 glass of sugar
Orange juice
1 cup of semolina
½ teaspoon of soda
A teaspoon tip of ammonia
Lemon gratings
1 baking powder
Flour

For the stuffing:
1 glass of nutmeat
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of clove
1 spoon of sugar

For the syrup:
4 glasses of sugar
3 glasses of water

Preparation

Sift the flour with the baking powder. Stir all other ingredients for 4-5 minutes. Through them in the flour and knead to make soft pastry. Split pastry into little parts. Shape each part in the shape of little leafs and put in its centre one teaspoon of stuffing. Make small pockets by closing with your fingers the endings. Decorate their surfaces with a fork. Place them on a buttered pan and roast in the over at 175Co for about half an hour.
Prepare the syrup, place “psathouria” in a big plate and sprinkle with the syrup and grinded nutmeat.

Platsentis or dimblis

Ingredients

1 cup of water
Some oil
Some salt
A teaspoon tip of soda
Flour
For the syrup
1 glass of water
1 glass of honey

Preparation
Knead the dough, roll the pastry and cut in different little shapes (bows, round shapes etc.)
Fry them in burning oil and sprinkle with the syrup. (Either the syrup or “platsentis” must be cold).
Place platsentis in a big plate and add grinded nutmeat and cinnamon.

Grandmother’s kourampiedes

300 drams of butter
3 cups of sugar
2 cups of “raki”
2 cups scented water
Flour
(2 eggs optionally)

Preparation
Stir the butter until it becomes white and add the sugar. Stir well. Add the “raki” and the scented water and the flour little by little and kneed until the dough gets soft. Form the shapes you like.

Grandmother’s Christmas Pie

10 drams of yeast, 40 drams of lukewarm milk, some flour. Knead and cover the mixture.
When the leaven rises, add 1kg. flour, 2 eggs, 50 drams of butter, ½ kg. milk, vanilla, 100 drams of sugar and a..coin.
Knead, butter the pan, put the pastry in and roast.

Christmas Pie from Smyrna

Ingredients

650 grams of flour
160 grams of butter
820 grams of sugar
1 glass of orange juice
Lemon gratings
Juice from half a lemon
7 eggs
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Preparation
Stir butter with sugar and add yolks one by one. Mix for 10 minutes, add orange juice, lemon gratings and stirred glairs.
Butter a small pan and put in the dough, cover the surface with egg and roast in the oven.

Other desserts housewives used to prepare during Christmas were the traditional “baklava” and scented “trigona” filled with nuts.

Palm Sunday- “Vagia”

On Palm Sunday, after the Mass, children would split in groups and would go around the village singing about the day Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem, fulfilled the prophecies, challenged the religious authorities and ended up dying to save the world.
Children holding “vagia” (palm branches), the “symbols of victory” in their hands, would sing out loud and would shake “vagia” so that the bells hanging on them would sound.
Today, the song of “Vagia” is performed by primary school children, who elaborately decorate a palm branch and keep the tradition alive.
At noon, according to tradition, people should have fish and more specifically dry salted fish for lunch.
In the evening, in church, everyone sings the Psalm and worship the image of Christ that is placed in the middle of the temple.