- an orthodox church holiday remembering the day the three year old Virgin Mary first entered the temple
- name day for all virgins named Maria, Mary, Soultana, Virginia, Lemonia and a few others. Non virgins of the same name celebrate on 15th August
- but most importantly for us it is the day Greeks honour their Armed Forces. The Virgin Mary is their patron saint.
In this household the day starts off with freshly ironed shirts and trousers, polished shoes and an hour or so attending the service at the Church of St Nicholas, at the Poros Navy Training School.
" 21st November marks the Armed Forces Day in Greece. It is a celebration dedicated to the watchful guardians of the Greek borders, the guarantors of security, peace and prosperity of the Greek people" (prosperity?)
In Athens the day begins with the raising of the flag on the Holy Rock of the Acropolis, a service at the church St Dionysios (not to be confused with the ancient Greek god Dionysios, who worshipped wine, women and song) and wreath laying at the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Here it means meeting with comrades in arms, tall stories and an afternoon raking up old active duty tales over glasses of ouzo and platters of roast lamb and pork. But for today the reminiscing takes precident over the eating and drinking.
Most of the men here started out at the Navy Training school on Poros at age 13. At 15 they were serving on the old ex-american (WW11) navy destroyers. They slept in tiered bunks with no airconditioning or port holes. Water was scarce, rations skimpy for these young recruits. Ships from the Greek Navy stayed out in all weather as did the British Navy. Huge seas during NATO exercises meant other ships ran for cover, but not these two .
Today they'll be remembering the worst but also the best. The friendships made, the tricks they all played on each other and the laughs they had together, the high jinks when visiting port and how many beers or ouzo they downed before being hauled back on board.
And they'll do it all again on 6 December which is the fiesta of St Nicholas, Patron of the Greek Navy.
Christmas music #2. - The hills on the far side of the bay coated in thick snow. At sunrise the light catches them and they glow first purple then salmon pink. The weather ...
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