Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother’s Day, Greek Island Style

Waiting for the dance to begin
I wonder if the children and adults participating in the Mother’s Day celebrations held in the Ikaria village of Kampos, understand how truly important maintaining their traditions are, not just for the islanders and their island, but for the maintenance of their national culture and identity?

I was pondering this as I watched and filmed some 25 traditional dances over several hours during the evening of May 11, 2014. There were six groups of dancers ranging in age from seven or eight years through to teens and adults. Ikaria, by the way, is a small island in the Aegean Sea, not far from the Turkish coast.

The island boasts a local culture that steadfastly clings to the traditions of the past, while at the same time enjoying the many rewards and benefits of modern life. Every year, beginning in May and running right through until late September, the islanders organise a series of festivals (paniyiri) that start late, and finish even later. I’m talking 9:00pm to 9:00am, for those participants with the most stamina. The less hardy, generally older members of the community, will head home any time between 2:00am and dawn, but many have been known to match it with the young generations.

Anyway, the Mother’s Day celebrations started early-ish, and ended well before midnight. I filmed the whole event, and I have put together a video compilation of many of the dances that occurred during the night. I was positioned about ten feet above the dance ‘floor’, off to one side of the village square. It wasn’t the best position to film the participants, but I’m more than happy with the birds eye view I had of the whole event.

The celebration was as formal as you might expect for an open air, village celebration. That is to say, there were a couple of speeches followed by much dancing, hand clapping, vocal encouragement for all the dancers, constant chatter from the audience, kids running around the dance area and sometimes between the dancers themselves. The village square is located next to the main road that runs through the centre of the village, so there was a constant stream of cars, trucks, motorbikes and assorted foot traffic passing by throughout the event. None of these distractions disturbed the dancers in the least. In fact, they are part and parcel of any island celebrations.

But what I especially love about these island celebrations and traditions, is that they are embraced equally by the very young as well as by the very old. No one shouts at the kids to sit down and keep quiet, or to stay out of the way of the performers. The whole square seems as if it is being rearranging constantly by an invisible hand that manages to keep dancers, children, organisers and visitors out of each others way, as the evening progresses.

The video below provides a composite look at Mother’s Day, Greek style, as celebrated in Kampos, Ikaria on the evening of May 11, 2014.

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