Panigyri: A traditional celebration in space and time

By Dim. Stathakopoulos

From the ancient word “Panígyris” (everything rises), the medieval word “panigyri” was derived, which we nowadays use with different meanings.

A panigyri is a popular celebration with a religious background, including food, music and dancing, but also a trading fair.

The word is used to express extreme joy and enthusiasm: “We celebrated like in a panigyri when we heard the good news.”

Metaphorically though, it can also be used in situations of quarrel and trouble: “What happened was a big panygiri.”

It is also used to ridicule an object or a person to which or whom we attribute a low value. For example: “What you bought is good only for a panygiri.”

Describing the panygiri on the Island of Delos, ancient Greek historian and geographer Strabo underlines its trading character in addition to its religious significance. The ancient panygiri of Delos has been replaced in our days by the Christian panygiri in the neighbouring island of Tinos in the Cyclades.

In modern times, the panygiri has become a magnet for visitors. Encounters have a religious identity as they are associated with some local saint or Mother Mary,. The occasion for celebrating a panygiri can also be the harvest of a local product, such as wine or ouzo.

Trading fairs are also still present in our days, just as in Ancient Greece, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire, but they are also connected to a religious ceremony, followed by popular music and dancing.

A panygiri is an active part of the social life in any given place, as it transports tradition across time. These celebrations are also a chance for locals to get together with their compatriots and for visitors to learn the local customs and products.

It´s a psychological and economical injection for a local society and it’s economy along with an occasion for celebrating.

It´s an ancient institution that takes place not only in Greece, but everywhere in the world.

A point of discussion beyond this brief article concerns, of course, the aesthetics of the so called “traditional” celebration. The music we hear, the way we dance, even the way we meet together and the products presented for sale: can they still be considered “traditional” nowadays?

For example, the very heart of the Greek musical style is being attacked, as the traditional scales (modes) are replaced with western minor and major ones. Still it is worth investigating how Greek songs react to this and attempt to retain their original character.

Whatever analysts may say, the phenomenon of panygiri still enjoys wide popular acceptance regardless of its aesthetics. It will continue, with or without us.

A Place Where a Revolution was Born

Kalavrita, a small town in Peloponnes, Greece, is a place where a revolution started.

How many places can you actually recall that are birthplaces of revolutionary movements?

Apart from some Latin American countries in the sixties maybe, when low grade officers proclaimed their so called “revolutions” on an almost weekly basis, most of the cities around the globe belong to the majority of places where there has never been any significant uprising.

In our days, the mere word “revolution” sounds menacing or even ridiculous; let alone that to be revolutionary you must somehow have undergone a process of awakening.

The consumerist spirit of our times ensures that we are kept deeply asleep.

There were times, however, when a few people regarded violent upheavals as an option to change conditions they considered unjust.

As a war of independence carried out by the Christian people of the Greeks against the Muslim Turkish occupation, analysts have shed light over the national and religious aspects of the revolution that started in Kalavrita in 1821.

Other Historians concentrated on the social aspects of the revolutionaries, being an underprivileged group of have-nots who fought against the Christian upper class, which over the centuries had come to terms with the Muslim rulers and secured themselves a foothold of power and wealth.

Disputes over the exact birthplace of the revolution has even caused rivalries between cities in Greece, each one claiming to be the first to have initiated orchestrated attacks against the occupants.

Focusing on the “who” and “where”, we may neglect a more essential aspect however: That there was actually an uprising in Kalavrita in the first place.

It belongs to those places worldwide whose habitants had the “bad habit” of not submitting so easily to imposed authority – being eventually beaten only in the past decades by the fatal attraction of consumerism, which proved to be the worse invader of all.

The “die hard” people of Kalavrita added the name of their hometown to the list of places where a revolution was born.

Despite the tears and the blood, the sacrifices and the setbacks, and the overall frustrating experience of the revolution as a whole, the final outcome of the fight for independence was in the end a happy and successful one.

Sometimes it is worth starting a revolution.