A personal memory of the Christmas and New Years’ Celebrations in Crete
It hasn’t been so long since the Christmas holidays. While I am trying again to adapt to the day-to-day and the work routine, I can’t stop thinking that Carnival is approaching, so once again we will “escape” from our schedule, and dive into a new Greek party season.
Maybe the Greek people have the need to entertain and make celebrations all the time, to go out, spend a lot of money and return to their homes in the morning (I don’t include myself, because I’m not exactly the type of person that you could describe as a party-animal).
Anyway, I remember New Year’s Eve, when the stores were closing at eight o’ clock. It was around 7pm and there were no people going around. The shopkeepers had begun to lock their shops in order to go home to their families.
And just when I began to feel disappointed by the lukewarm situation in the centre of the city, I walked by chance from 1866 street in the central market. Here in ouzeri “Sarantavga” (FortyEggs), the “kefi” was firing up. Celebration! People were dancing on tables, bumping their glasses, throwing paper towels in the air and singing loudly. I had to snap a photo! It was seven o’ clock in the late afternoon and I was thinking that moments like this one, you can only run into in Greece. There are countries in which people have dinner at 19.00, alcohol is being served and sold till 23.00 – the time that pubs are closing– and the clubs are closing their doors as early as 2.00 am!
People who live in countries like those come here for vacation and they find paradise. They think that the whole year we live in an endless party. 7pm in Heraklion and the alcohol was flowing. The “pareas” ( parea is the art of Greek social life) were in the midst of celebration, or “glendi”. The coming of New Year was descending like a new beginning; full of goals, dreams and fresh hopes. It was like the year 2005 was leaving and everybody was hurrying to get rid of it, like 2005 was carrying only sadness, misery and burdens that had to be lightened. It was like the New Year would bring only happiness…
I remember that a few mornings, during the Christmas holiday, I had to wake up early in the morning around 8 o’ clock and I sometimes turned on the television. I was smiling as I bumped into live transmissions from the night clubs, where people were dancing, enjoying themselves and didn’t want to go anywhere else. Others were running to their jobs, others were just getting out of church and others still hadn’t gone back to their homes from their night’s entertainment! Meanwhile, they were scattering each and every singer in the ‘bouzoukia’ or the so called ‘skyladika’, with carnations.
As for what I did, I fell victim to the ‘double dot’, that is the double price in the various nightspots because of the holidays. I went out on Christmas Day to watch a well-known Cretan group of traditional but also contemporary music, ‘Chainides’, and found myself in a filled to capacity room where you couldn’t breath from the deluge of people. The price was 25 euros per person and included hors d’ oeuvres, two main dishes, dessert and unlimited quantity of wine (and live music of course). I can say that it was a normal price for Christmas Day.
At this point though, starts the situation comedy from the –always scene making– Greek people. No matter what happens, they never like it. There were two guys asking the owner of the place: “We don’t want to eat, we only want to drink. Do we also have to pay 25 euros, just for drinking?” He answered that the price was non-negotiable and that if they wanted just to drink, they could each pay–that is 50 euros– and have a half bottle of whiskey in place of wine. “And how are we gonna drink ‘ouiski’ without something to eat, koumbare (friend/brother)”, asked the customer again. I couldn’t hold my laugh anymore. Yes, finally, that’s how we are as people. We don’t like something and when they suggest something else, we want both what has been suggested and what we had in mind in the first place.
But, one way or another, the holidays are over, the “glendi” and the “Opa!” have stopped. We got back to business. From time to time we ’ll go out, though having our minds on the clock, because if we stay up late, how are we gonna get up in the morning. We ’ll make sure not to drink more than two drinks, because how are we gonna work, and so on… Only, at moments, through the pressure of work, we look at the window and we sing in a low voice: “Ta mavra matia sou, otan ta vlepo me zalizoune…” and then we get back to what we were doing…
* By Maria Daskalaki
Christmas glendi from a TV show