In my post Time, I wrote a few, brief sentences on a type of celebration in Greece called a panagiri. These festivals (aka all night parties) are held throughout the year and often, but not always, have a religious basis. August 15, the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary’s ascent into heaven, is a very important religious holiday and is always followed by many, large panagiris. Every village wants to host a celebration. Since they all can’t celebrate on the same day (there’s not enough people to go around), they spread them out over a few days. The village of Karavostamo hosted their panagiri last night.
All day I encouraged the kids to take a nap so that we could stay out all night and dance the night away. Or, in the case of the kids, run around with their friends and eat ice cream and fries. Of course that didn’t happen. There’s something about being an American child that prohibits napping. I guess they think they’ll miss something exciting or they think napping is for babies. But I’ll tell you what, if someone tried to force me to nap every day I’d do it! Unfortunately if they don’t nap, I can’t nap. I mean, I try, but there is always a door opening or closing, a toilet flushing, giggling coming from the other side of the wall, or a whisper in my ear, “I can’t sleep”.
We left the house at 11:15 pm when we heard the band starting to play and headed to the dry river bed where the panagiris are held. We joined my cousins Roula and Malcolm, Stella, and some others at a long table, covered with the white paper tablecloths that are used everywhere in this country. They all have a thin layer of plastic on the bottom that the kids love to tear apart when the top gets wet and a blue border with a map of the island printed on the center. (If you’ve ever been here, you know exactly what I am talking about, don’t you?) It wasn’t long before the table was covered with beers cans, bottles of Ikarian wine, Greek salads, potatoes, bread, and lamb. (There went all the work I did this week with my meager attempt at exercising!) The conversations transitioned between Greek and English, and I attempted to follow them both. There was a steady stream of people behind us, heading for the food or the dancing, and the river bed soon began to overflow with people instead of water.
By one o’clock, Elias and I started to dance. We joined the long line of people and curled in and out of the crowds and around giant Sycamore tree in the middle of the “dance floor.” Eventually it became too crowded to dance. The worst time to be on the dance floor was during the Ikariotiko, the dance of the island. In America, at Greek Food Festivals and weddings, the bands play a variety of songs for the different dances around the country. Whenever the Ikariotiko is played the dance floor thins out and only a few are left to dance one of the most challenging dances of Greece. Here, it is the opposite. When an Ikarian hears the first few notes of the bouzouki calling out the Ikariotiko, everyone rushes to floor. We tried to dance one Ikariotiko last night, but there were so many people on the dance floor that, at one point, I thought we might not make it out alive! Our “line” got trapped between two others and we couldn’t move. We managed to find a place to stand, up against the giant Sycamore until we spotted an opening to make our escape back to the tables.
At some point Zach went home with my cousin Stella, whose house is close by, to sleep on her couch until we were ready to head up the hill. Elias didn’t want to go to bed, but his energy was waning, and the Coke he drank at 11:00, to keep him awake was wearing off. Rea, however, was still going strong, running around with her friends, trying her best to communicate. At three o’clock I decided that we should head back home. Zach trudged up the hill, barely able to lift his feet, Elias went silently, and Rea complained the whole way up that it was “so early” and that I said we could “stay out late.” We went to sleep with the sounds of the band drifting through our closed windows, fully cognizant of the party going on a few hundred yards below us.
And then, at 7:15 I woke up, fully cognizant of the party going on a few hundred yards below us. So, instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, I jumped out of the bed, threw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed my camera and headed out the door. As I walked towards the river bed, I could see the road across the other side that leads out of the village. There were still dozens and dozens of cars and motorbikes lining the roads. I walked a little quicker, anxious to see how many people really were still there, dancing and celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. OK. So I guess the people who were still there weren’t thinking much about The Virgin Mary and were just having a good time with their friends.
There were still hundreds of people–some dancing, some drinking wine, some eating potatoes and salad, some smoking, and some sleeping on the rocks and in the weeds. Below are some photos of the night/morning and two short videos–Dancing at 2 am and Dancing at 7:30 am. Now it is 9 am and I can still hear the bouzouki. As I sit here three thoughts come to my mind. First, how do four musicians have the stamina to play for 10 consecutive hours? Second, I hope that someday I stay up all night and dance until the sun comes up. And finally, I wish that my cousin Dimitri was still here in Greece. He asked me to keep an eye out for a beautiful Ikarian woman with whom he could settle down, live in a small Greek village, and raise goats, chickens, and kids. Ok..not really….but, last night (or this morning) he probably could have found his own!