Mykonos Celebrates Spring’s Arrival With Several Ancient Traditions

The people of Mykonos still value their traditions and religious festivals. As winter ends and spring is in the air, it is time to celebrate, remember and be thankful for many things!

Tsiknopempti

(Τσιχνοπέμπτη) translates to “Thursday of the Smoke of Grilled Meat”. It is part of the three weeks of Carnival season in Greece. Large amounts of meat are eaten before the fasting of Lent begins. The 40 days of fasting leads up to Orthodox Easter. It is always celebrated 11 days before another holiday called “Clean Monday” On this day, the smell of barbecue is everywhere!

The Martis Bracelet

This colourful red and white bracelet is a tradition that dates back to ancient times. It is woven on the last day of February and worn from March 1st until the end of the month. It symbolises purity (white), passion and life (red). When the bracelet is removed, it is hung on a fruit tree so the tree will remain fruitful. Swallows returning from winter migration might even use the string for their nests. In recent times the “Evil Eye” is incorporated giving extra protection from evil.

Carnival

Carnival is not a one day event, but more a series of parties, a parade and treasure hunt. It come to a crescendo on the last and wildest day of the carnival, three weeks later, with the parade ending in burning of the carnival king, and the closing ceremony.

During Carnival period, many dress in fun creative costumes. Mykonos usually has an annual carnival parade however Covid restrictions curtailed this wonderful event for the last two years. The Carnival “Apokries” period takes place three weeks leading up to Clean Monday. The exact dates of Carnival depends on the date of Easter and always ends 7 weeks before Easter.

Gaitenaki

Gaitanaki is a traditional Greek dance performed during the carnival. There are 13 people for this dance! One person holds a wooden pole with 12 ribbons hanging from its top. The ribbons are different colours with each person holding a ribbon. The dancers move around the pole, go under the other dancer’s ribbon, creating a colourful braid at the end of the dance. This dance is a symbol of the circle of life. Happiness to sadness, winter to spring, life to death and the opposite!

Clean Monday

“Katheri Deftera” is 40 days before Easter. It marks the beginning of Lent. It is celebrated with the consumption of shellfish and other fasting food, a special kind of bread which is baked only on that day, named “lagana” (Greek: λαγάνα) and the widespread custom of flying kites, as they symbolise “reaching up…..resurrection”. Christians should begin the holy season with “clean hearts and good intentions.” 

Feast of the Annunciation

On this feast, the Christians celebrate the day that Angel Gabriel announced to Mary the incarnation of Christ. During the Lent period in Mykonos, the historic icon of Panagia Tourliani is removed from the Monastery of Ano Mera and taken to the Chora (main town), on the first Saturday after Ash Monday. All the people of Mykonos follow an approximately two-hour route on foot. The icon is returned again to its original home on Lazarus Saturday escorted once again by the people .

Greek Independence Day

March 25 is a double holiday in Greece. The War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire (1821-1832) and the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation. It is a time for a military parade, especially during the 200th year commemorating her freedom!

So as you can see we are actually quite active “off season”, having time to enjoy Mykonos, each other and all the wonderful cultural traditions before the tourist crowds arrive.

Photography – Leanne Vorrias

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