Easter in Patmos

Expat Greek Australian, Acoumina Karavis-Theodorou, takes a wry look at the preparations for Easter on the island of Patmos

“Elate na parete, elate na deite, o emboros, o kalokardos, elate kyries mou”…the familiar calls of the mobile merchant, the clothing store on wheels… I wait for him to pass before I back out onto the street, and drive to the port, Skala.

Lambatha with Action Man, lambatha with Spiderman, lambatha with Harry Potter, lambatha with Barbie, with baby dolls, shells, flowers, tulle, ribbons, red, blue, yellow, pink, the variety is endless.

I pull into the council parking lot and there are the tell-tale signs that the season is about to start.

The alcove with the large green bins is overflowing with rubbish, empty cartons, a broken chair, an old mattress… the scene is repeated on a smaller scale throughout Skala.

Local shopkeeper Lela has asked me to do the Easter store display and window decoration, a concept foreign to Patmos 15 years ago.

Huge cartons full of shoes, handbags, pashminas and faux bijoux arrive.

The pastel eggs hang on ribbons whilst the pastel nylon butterflies perch on the colourful and enticing accessories.

The women are putting aside the pieces they want for Easter. There’s a whole week of church dressing to cater for and the teenagers are negotiating with grans, aunts, godparents, mums and dads for pocket money to clinch the new platform stilettos and the oversize earrings.

“Kala, telia then einai? Tha kano ta konne mou kai that ta paro, ennoia sou!” The cell phones run hot, “I’m at Pop Image, pleeeeeeaaasssseeee come and help me choose !”

Tradition requires the godparent to give the child a lambatha and clothing or shoes.

Lambatha with Action Man, lambatha with Spiderman, lambatha with Harry Potter, lambatha with Barbie, with baby dolls, shells, flowers, tulle, ribbons, red, blue, yellow, pink the variety is endless.

Shoppers circulate with brightly coloured bags with Easter motifs, defying the current economic situation… credit abounds.
The supermarkets are brimming with food for Lent.

Ten different types of halva, plain tahini, black sesame tahini, tahini with honey, tahini with sucrose. Frozen kalamari, frozen octopus and clams, soya milk, soya cheese, prepacked tsourekia and koulourakia, egg dyes in red, blue, green and yellow and this year’s ‘it’ thing clear glitter for the dyed eggs.

Orders are being placed for goat and lamb with the goatherds and shepherds, and the butchers are taking orders for entrails and kefalakia for the mageiritsa soup, tavernas are taking reservations for the Anastasi, Easter Sunday and Monday.

Housewives, exhausted and complaining have been spring cleaning as a prelude to Easter week, where all must be ready for the baking marathons, dyeing eggs, mageiritsa soup, going to church daily as well as having the kids off school.

The working wives have already started cleaning the hotels, pensiones and private houses. Others are painting shop signs, varnishing chairs and refreshing the whitewashed walls of their stores so as to open promptly.

The cruise boats have already started coming full of foreign students doing classical studies.

The delivery trucks and couriers are doing extra rounds to deliver orders on time and shop owners wait for the ferries at all hours of the night to receive parcels.

My neighbour the gardener, is working non-stop, cleaning and digging the gardens of the private houses, and clipping the bouganvilleas and rose bushes.

Seeds have long been planted and the first shoots are appearing. Wild daisies and chamomile are already in full bloom in the fields.
During the course of the week, his wife Voula and other parishioners will be making the woven crosses from palm leaves, for Palm Sunday.

Rania, from the local dress shop also makes her quota of crosses during her spare moments with her 12-year-old granddaughter.

Others volunteer to polish the church silver and brass, clean and air the oriental rugs and whitewash the facade.

Fireworks, crackers and occasional sticks of dynamite are being set off, as dress rehearsals for the Anastasi take place.

My worst nightmare, last Easter, at my local church in the plateia, (instead of the monastery of Zoodohos Pygi), I was in a war zone!

My ears were ringing and the neighbourhood dogs were barking continuously for hours whilst I uttered my most descriptive Greek and English gutter language.

This year I will experience Easter week at the women’s monastery of The Evangelismos, where relative silence and respect are the order of the day, and where individuals go to review and celebrate the eternal cycle of life, the resurrection.

Kalo Pascha!