Tradition in Amorgos

 

A true trademark of the island-baked raki (psimeni raki) and rakomelo, local feasts, a genuine Greek Easter, various culinary festivals, even some ancient rituals reviving in thousand years, like “Kapetanios” and the dance of “Kitsos”, form the core of the folk traditions in Amorgos.

 

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+ Local Feasts (Greek Panigiria)

Almost all of the Greek islands, including Amorgos, celebrate various local feasts and social occasions. These revelries play a major role in the society and they are directly woven into the lives of the locals from the earliest days to the very present.

One of the most famous celebrations (and one of the greatest in Cyclades) is the feast honoring the saint-protector of Kolofana in the hamlet of Kato Meria, Agia Paraskevi. This revelry is taking place on the eve (25th of July) at the official day of the saint. Also, due to the high attendance (normally gathering over 3000 visitors), the community has expanded its church facilities (building few cells for the guests, more warehouses, etc.).

The preparations begin 10 days prior to the feast, during which the visitors will have the chance to taste local delicacies such as "patatato" (honey-baked goat meat cooked in tomato sauce served with potatoes), "xidato" (a type of tripe soup with plenty vinegar), "kofto" (thickened wheat with Amorgian cheese), but also to dance to live traditional music in front of the yard of the chapel or listen to some lute/violin at any of the taverns in the area.

Other important local feasts in Amorgos are: Panagia Hozoviotissa (November 21st), where the visitors are treated with fresh fish and local wine, Agios Ioannis Theologos (May 8th), Agioi Anargyroi (July 1st) which is taking place at Tholaria, Transfiguration of the Savior (aka Metamorfosi tou Sotiros, which is occuring on the 6th of August), the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at the church of Panagia Epanohoriani (August 15th) in Lagada, Agios Ioannis (on the 29th of August) in the hamlet of Vroutsi.

+ Easter in Amorgos

From Holy Week all the way to Good Friday during which the Epitaph, sprinkled with fresh sage and oregano, is brought on a procession, Easter in Amorgos is filled with an eminently unique ambiance. The churches and the streets of every village in Amorgos are decorated with mournful flowers that add to the picture of the whitewashed houses and scenic cobblestone alleys.

On the same day (Good Friday), local women offer homemade bread, olives and lenten delicacies to the visitors, while by night (and prior to the procession of the Epitaph), every single narrow street of the Byzantine settlement of Chora is lit with hundreds of small fires. Throughout the procession, local women also sprinkle every visitor with perfumes from atop their houses or their front doors.

On Easter the miraculous icons are taken out from the Monastery of Hozoviotissa to bless every single spot of the island before returning to the monastery on Sunday of St. Thomas. Later in the afternoon, next to the traditional Easter-related food blowout, the youth is gathering around the island’s churches to play various games - planned especially for the day.

+ Rakomelo

Rakomelo (local liquor) looks like baked raki (psimeni raki) but has more alcohol percentage (25-27 instead of 20-22 degrees) and its prepared in a Greek-style coffee pot (known also as briki) to be consumed instantly. Drinking it warm, can offer some very protective antioxidants that cure sore throat and other infections.

+ Xerotigana (fried dough strips)

Xerotigana (although a not once-a-year Greek fare) are consumed mainly at Christmas and Easter or even at some special family ceremonies (along with a type of nougat).

These dough strips are usually kneaded and rolled out by hand, and then are fried to end up drizzled with tons of syrup and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds.

+ Patatato

“Patatato” is probably the most famous, traditional dish of Amorgos that is prepared through local feasts and big family parties. It consists of honey-baked goat meat (or veal) slowly cooked in tomato sauce with a handful of herbs (cinnamon, cloves, etc) and served with locally-produced potatoes.

+ Pasteli Feast

Pasteli Feast(giorti pasteliou) is a local feast (panigiri) taking place at the central square of Chora (Amorgo’s town) every year on the first Sunday after the 15th of August (Dekapentavgustos). A rather small-scale event with live music, plenty of drink and eating and also dancing, honoring the beloved local treat of nougat (pasteli).

Throughout the fête, visitors have the chance to witness the making of the pasteli from the scratch as well as help the locals prepare this sweet candy to be served on lemongrass leaves along with local raki.

+ The custom of "Kapetanios"

Dating back to the Turkish period, the custom of "Kapetanios" (also known "Captain") is one of the long-lasting traditions that have survived on the island of Amorgos. Celebrated on the last Sunday of Carnival, the so-called Tirini, during the custom of "Kapetanios" all the young Amorgian people gather around the main square of Lagada to dance to the traditional music and sing along “mandinades” (folk songs). They also form a parade towards the church of Epanochoriani (Virgin Mary), a tradition also known as "Apokriano", during which is taking place the “coronation” of the “Kapetanios”, namely the most gifted you man of the island is chosen by the eldest man of the village (sometimes it can be the priest, too).

The once selected young man is directly attired with the traditional dress (a vest, belt, a skirt-like garment - fustanell,a and a fez on his head). The proclaimed "Bairaktaris", who is the guard of the Captain-related parade, wears also a traditional costume as well as holds the Greek "bairaki" (as he has nailed on top of a pole a large piece of cod or octopus, a loaf of bread and a small cheese wheel - delicacies that symbolize the beginning of Lent).

Principally, the parade starts from the church with the leader-Bairaktaris and the “Kapetanios” carried by his ornamented horse/mule and all their friends following on a journey with violin/lute sounds till the entrance of the village of Lagada. There, the “virgin” girls are awaiting of the “Kapetanios” to also follow the procession. In his honor, improvised “mandinades” (rhyming couplets for the girls) are being told and the partakes are treated with plenty of drinks from the Greek coffee shops (kafeneia).

When they finally arrive at the main square of Chora, both the musicians and "Bairaktaris" surround the mounted on his horseback "Captain" and displaying the pole three times around him. Later on, “Bairaktaris” fires up the first dance of the ceremony, swaying along with his friends (the so-called traditional dance of Kitsos), while the virgins are patiently waiting to catch the “Kapetanios” handkerchief (customarily caught by the one who has stolen Kapetanio's heart aka the “Kapetanissa”). And thus, it is not a coincidence that during this ritual many couples fell in love. Local rumor has it that the custom of "Kapetanios" in ancient times was celebrated to reward the best soldier who had the chance to choose his wife, whereas some believe that it has its roots back in the period when locals were discussing their battle plans against the Ottoman Empire.

The culmination of the revelry lingers with more eating and drinking (i.e.: wild green and cheese pies, Greek-style donuts/loukoumades and fried dough strips/xerotigana) till early dawn. Similarly, the parade continues onto the narrow cobblestone streets, while local women offer baked raki and wine to the people.

Beside the village of Lagada the custom of "Kapetanios" is also revived in the neighboring hamlets of Tholaria, taking place at the courtyard of the Agios Dimitrios church. Nevertheless, young people from four villages of Amorgos, (Lagada, Tholaria, Aegiali and Potamos) are participating in both ceremonies.

+ Amorgos International Short Film Tourist Festival

Amorgos International Short Film Festival is an annual event that takes place for 4 days between late October and early November, during Amorgos Convention of Culture & Tourism - YPERIA.

Over the course of the festival, more than a 100 films and documentaries are being screened and finally awarded according to the best practices contributing to the development of tourism of Amorgos in a domestic and foreign scale, but also those who narrated a green story and offered credible guidance.

+ Baked raki

Baked raki is the trademark of Amorgo’s long culinary tradition, linked with every joyful or mournful social event on the island. This emblematic spirit of Amorgos (a type of homemade liquor made by the solid remains of grapes with the aid of a traditional wine press), is the result of baked (boiled) raki which is infused with several herbs & spices. An enviable hallmark of Amorgian shops and houses that is served in shot glasses.

In fact, the process of making baked raki is divided into two stages (twofold distillation method). After the pressed grapes enter "harani" (a traditional metallic bucket), they are boiled in strong fire so that the alcohol spirits pass through the so-called "puma" (a marble bung) to get cooled until concentrated into large vessels. Finally the grapes are merged with some sugar and various aromatic herbs and then, get boiled altogether. The ingredients of baked raki vary from honey, cinnamon, carnation, rose, anise, dried fruits or orange peel, while its name is taken due to the color of the slowly roasted raki resulting in magnificently caramelized drips that is said to boost libido.

Without additives it is offered as a digestive appetizer and thus, “psimeni raki” is sure to be tippled by individuals seeking palate-thrilling adventures or attending various local feasts. During the ceremonies of local weddings and baptisms, baked raki is offered along with the traditional local nougat (pasteli) on lemon-grass leaves. Also, it is said that baked raki was envisaged by the local women in their attempt to participate in the social life of the island, but also to have to indulge in something less strong than their partner’s drink, raki.

Honoring this aromatic spirit every 26th of July in the port of Katapola, the locals celebrate its produce until dawn. After the slow-roasting of raki with the contribution of both locals and tourists, the feast lingers with the entrance of more dancers (dressed with traditional costumes), who arrive by boat to meet the musicians ashore and generate a great banquet that lasts until early morning.

Baked raki is being offered to the visitors of the Monastery of Hozoviotissa along with some Turkish delight (aka loukoumia). Apart from the domestic production baked raki is nowadays exported to many other European countries. On cold winter days, “psimeni raki” is served warm to cure sore throats, while during the summer, you can get this local liqueur mixed into refreshing cocktails.

+ Pasteli (Παστέλι)

Pasteli is deeply rooted in the long culinary traditions of Amorgos. A local type of nougat, an exquisite snack made of sesame seeds (fried in oil to release their fragrances) and tons of honey and sugar, altogether slowly-mixed in a large pot, until they cool completely. At that moment the mix is spread out on large board and is kneaded with a piece of wood until get flatten. Then, the mix is cut diamond-shaped and ultimately served onto lemon leaves, which give it a very special flavor.

Pasteli - ideally served on a lemon-tree leaf, a welcome treat being offered on wedding and baptisms. The famous nougat of Amorgos that has its own feast standing as a testament to the island’s pasteli-making tradition. Today, the locals organize a series of celebrations that continue all through the night into the early hours of the morning.

+ Baked raki festival

The feast of baked raki takes place in Katapola every 26th of July to celebrate the trademark of the island. After the slow-roasting of raki in huge traditional pots, with the contribution of both locals and tourists, the feast lingers with the entrance of more dancers (dressed in traditional costumes), who arrive by boat to meet the musicians ashore and generate a great banquet that lasts until early morning.

+ Xerotigano Feast

The very first xerotigano feast (giorti xerotoganou) was introduced in early September of 2010 at the port of Aegiali. During the celebration, visitors can learn the secrets of making this traditional treat by participating in the production process, while listening to live traditional music and boogying to folk dancing.

+ Kitsos

Kitsos is an Amorgian slow-paced traditional dance liked with a folk song (kleftiko) that has its roots in Epirus and Peloponnese(named also Kitsos). In the course of time, the song turned into a form of dance, which is danced by a group of men performed on the tip of their toes (pidihtos). Variations on Kitsos exist throughout the island.

In the past, Kitsos was danced by only a pair of men, during which one of them was performing all the dancing moves, while his couple (the so-called “phalos” of the dance) was helping him. Contemporary Kitsos is mostly performed by 3-4 men danced by holding each their arms in a near circle and conducted with synchronization, during which one of the partakes is leading the dance. In many cases, Kitsos is the first dance that traditional feasts begin with, unfolding "kavos", when the male and female dancers, holding hands, start dancing slowly in a circle and continuously revel until early dawn.

Interestedly, Kitsos is being danced not only in Amorgos, but also in other islands of Cyclades like Donousa, Koufonissia, Schinousa and Iraklia, in which Amorgian families moved after the 1870s.