The little church just below the road on the way down to Vayionia bay is dedicated to her. On the banks of the road you see three white crosses, now freshly white washed and the church is surrounded by seven tall cyprus trees. The cyprus tree was a symbol of mourning which is why they have been planted in Greek cemetaries. Small churches like this one often have a cypress tree or two looming over them.
Church in its everyday state
The service has started. The evening service began at 7.30pm. I heard the church bells ring out. People come at any time, sometimes to just light a candle but most stay till the end to listen to the liturgy and then to receive a piece of blessed bread and get some of the artos (sweet bread). These are made by the local housewives or can be ordered from the baker. The bread comes in a large basket covered with a nice white cloth, 5 loaves at a time. They represent the miracle of the 5 loaves and two fish with which Christ fed the 5,000. These are taken to the church at the beginning of the service. Small brown beeswax candles are pushed into the loaves and during the ceremony they are blessed by the priest and then cut up and handed out afterwards along with any cakes or sweets brought by the
congregation. There is usually a rush to get a slice of everything and handbags are filled up for those at home.
The baskets with their nice white cloths and the five loaves outside the door of the church. In the basket along with the loaves we also place a small bottle of olive oil for the lamps in the church, a bottle of the sweet red communal wine, a packet of incense, a small packet of charcoal which is used to light the incense (livani in greek) and a list of our dear departed whose names are read out by the priest.
The church is small so most of the congregation sit or stand outside.
After the evening service everyone goes off to celebrate. Down at Vayionia Bay they have rented enough chairs and tables to fill the waterfront and a live band plays popular greek music till the small hours. Up at the hilltop Paradise taverna Kiki is preparing 'kondosouvli', chunks of pork with onions, tomato and green peppers threaded onto a spit and grilled over hot coals.
Every house in the neighbourhood is occupied for this fete. The large family who own most of the land and houses around us have their own tradition and gather for a feast of snails.
Agia Paraskevi is a popular saint. The owners of many of the houses in this area live in Athens and come only for fiestas and big holidays. On arrival in Poros one of the first things they do will be to visit the church and light a candle.
The snails must be cleaned then soaked to get them to emerge from their shells. Any that don't are thrown away. They are boiled till tender, then the top is cut off each one, one-by-endless-one. By doing this you make a second airway so the inside can be sucked out. Then the sauce is prepared with lots of garlic, fresh tomatoes and onions and then the snails are added to the sauce and stewed. Suck, slurp and hopefully you don't get a sudden surprise as it unexpectedly slips straight down your gullet.
July is a popular month for fiestas (and siestas!).
25th July .. St Anne (26th in the Catholic church)
27th July .. Agios Panteleimonos