|ΜΕΤΑΦΡΑΣΗ - ΠΑΣΧΑ ΣΤΗΝ ΚΑΣΤΑΜΠΟΛΗ|
EASTER IN KASTAMPOLI OF EASTERN THRACE
The trees flourished and spread their foliage. The flowers blossomed and poured their essences. The violas, the lilacs show their own presence within the lush gardens. The almond and many other trees beautify the environment. Spring has come, spring for nature and for the soul, and with spring comes Easter. Through my mind like a movie passed what grandma Synodini told us about Easter in Fatherland. To Grandmother Synodini homeland is the place where she was born and raised, Kastampoli in Eastern Thrace, near Ganochora (Ganos, Chora, Myriofyto, Avdimou, Kastampoli ... ....) which are one on top of the other riding in order in the descent of the Holy Mountain, in the region of Redestou ..
I honestly do not know why, but I wanted to hear again what she had told us about those days and it did not bother me how many times I have heard them before. So for tonight I said I would open a bottle of good red wine, toast some bread, add some olive oil, oregano and red pepper to it and try to entice grandmother Anna in Thrace.
That evening grandma, watching the preparation I did, as if she understood what I was going to ask she started crying and saying.
"What a life is this one, my children, she says, what q life .... I am here and my mind lives there, and she wipes her eyes and rearranges her dark glasses and repeats. "I'll go blind, my children, she says, my eyes go cloudy, I’m getting dizzy" Come on grandma Anna, it’s nothing, it’s your imagination. Tell us please, Easter comes, in Kastampoli what did you do in the days of the Holy week?
Grandmother Anna breathed again a deep sigh as she does usually in these cases and started to speak.
"You know well that your grandmother's Poupoula’s (Vasilikoula’s) dad was our priest. Yes, I know that, I said. After Palm Sunday everyone was in church because the Holy Week began. All work stopped, we didn’t even work on the loom. These days we only went to the church. I remember saying
Holy Monday – a machete
Holy Tuesday - a crisis
Holy Wednesday - great dizziness
Holy Thursday - the sky rips apart and falls
Good Friday - Christ in prison
Holy Saturday - Jesus to Death.
(note: it rhymes in greek)
On Holy Monday began the "Good nights." Anyone who had not fasted in Lent, fasted obligatorily in Holy Week. They had no olive oil in their food either. The only work the housewives were doing was the cleaning of the house.
On Holy Tuesday we eagerly awaited to hear the hymn of Kassiani.
" O Lord, a woman of many sins..” The chanter we had (in church) said this very well. The old men said that he had learned the art of chanting in the churches of Konstantinople.
On Holy Wednesday we celebrated the mystery of the holy unction in church, but it could be celebrated at home as well. The priest blessed the eggs and the flour. I remember your great grandfather, Papa-Giorgi, with his heavy voice, and swinging the censer, chanting "my prayer rises to You' and the women kneeled down to the marbles of the church in an act of repentance.
Holy Thursday was called the Red Thursday and hail Thursday. No one was working to avoid a hailstorm that might destroy the crops. In the morning the women started to dye the eggs red and knead the Easter sweet bread. The housewives tried to put all their art into the sweet bread to rise and to its decoration. The eggs had a red colour and that is why they called Holy Thursday, Red Thursday. To dye the eggs we used various herbs, onion skins and nettles. I remember my mother, your grandmother Zoe, woke up really early in the morning and put a red cloth on the porch or red rugs hanging in the window. When I asked her, why you do that, she said for the sake of the house, and the first red egg which she took from the pan, she put it in the little shrine in the house and used it against the evil eye and when the weather was bad she took it out with the trivet upside down to stop the natural disaster. In the afternoon two children took the cross, they put in on a tray with flowers and went around to all the houses and gathered red eggs, which the priest would give to the church goers on Easter Sunday.
The housewives while dying the eggs and kneading the Easter sweet bread sang the:
Today the sky is black, it is a black day today
Today we all grieve and the mountains lament ,
Today the wicked Jews set their mind to,
The wicked, the dogs, the thrice cursed
To hang Christ the King of all
Etc ... ... ... ... ... ...
And in the evening we went to church to hear the twelve gospels and listen to "Today hang on Wood" and remember the church attendant Mr Sitavrou with a hammer in hand pounding to remind us the true crossing of our Christ. Our food had no olive oil, just lentil soup with lots of vinegar.
On Good Friday, all the girls, we gathered flowers and ran to church to decorate the Christ’s bier (epitafios) with violets, roses and lilacs. The grief was great. All women wore dark dresses for mourning and held a vigil in the church to guard the relics of Christ and mumbled the dirge "Today the sky is black, it is a black day today,". The procession of the bier was really nice. The school children sang the hymns and the myrrh-bearers threw the flowers that were left over from decorating the bier and the bell rang sadly. To show that our mourning for Christ was very large, the whole day we neither ate nor drank anything, not even water. Only when the procession was over and we got home, then we ate plain boiled food and drank water.
On Holy Saturday everyone with candles in hand went to church to get the holy light and hear the chant “Christ is Risen”. When your grandfather said (in the liturgy) "Come and get the Light," the church shone from the candles and when he chanted “Christ is Risen” with his bass voice, there were riffle shots. After we entered the church, we attended the mass service and at dawn we would return home to eat hot soup and crack our red eggs. Before entering the house my grandfather, George Syropoulos, crossed with the flame of the Easter candle the lintel of the house and my mother lit the oil light in the shrine with a candle and tried to keep it lit for 40 days. Easter Sunday and the feast started in the village square. Dancing, singing, all holding hands in a row, old men, old women, girls and children danced and sang until late at night.
Grandma, tell me that song you liked. Which one, my son. The one you said when you eye-flirted with grandfather. Ah, ok then.
My beloved lilac, when did you grow so big
And you gave all those flowers, the top flowers
In Easter, my beloved Synodini, aman,
The Holy Gospel was read (in church), the girls danced.
Theologis dances at the front, Synodini is proud of him
Go straight ahead Theologis in the dance, put your fez straight.
Easter, my children, is the largest celebration of the year, that’s how it is with us Thracians.
Finishing the narrative grandmother Synodini wiped her eyes, took one bite, another one, she grabbed the glass of wine and then she said what she says every time.
"Why would we old women want to live any longer? You are children, you will live, you will forget. We can not be saved from this yearning, except at dying. She brought the glass to her mouth, drank a couple of sips, looked at her glass and said. This wine is good my son, but it isn’t like the sweet wines in Thrace" and ended by saying again the same wish. "May we return in our homeland, my children, and be back at home and in the backyard of our house." I got up, thanked her and kissed her telling her, why not mother. Happy Easter, may we return in our homeland. God bless you, my child
Serres 26. 03. 07
(Grandmother Synodini-Anna) is now 94 years old living in Thessaloniki and is my mother.