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Celebrating

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The church Panajitsa Eleftherotria celebrated yesterday. This saint protects pregnant women. The liturgy on that day is attended by pregnant women who are praying for a safe and easy delivery. In this case the name Eleftherotria (from Eleftheria = freedom in Ancient and Modern Greek) means release. Lots of people attended the ceremony yesterday morning, the evening before and the rest of t

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Icons essential

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Today is the first Sunday of Lent, Sunday of Orthodoxy. This day signifies the importance of icons in the Orthodox religion and the defeat of iconoclasm.
The iconoclasts were those who believed that images should be prohibited under Mosaic law. They thought that icons could not represent both the divine and the human nature of the Christ.

On Skopelos the church Panagia Luvadiotisa (on the road to the monasteries) was the place to be today. Everybody takes an icon that they want to honor to this church and afterwards they walk back to the town in a procession.

Lots of people were around both inside and outside the church. Everybody wanted to light a candle and pay their respect to the icons in the church. The church lies between several outbuildings which were part of a small monastery. It was nice to see how, with much pride, people carried around their icons. They were also very willing to get their photograph taken.

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Tomorrow, Saturday, March 5th is “Psyhosavato” in the Orthodox Church or the “Saturday of Souls,” when families remember the dead of their family members by making traditional koliva and taking it to church for their dead to be remembered. Today we saw women go to churches to leave behind their plates with koliva for the morning service. Koliva is made for funeral and memorial services and distributed to those in attendance. Koliva is made primarily of wheat, which is symbolic of life and regeneration.

If you wish to make it we have put a recipe below. Many people make it at home too. The wheat can be bought in the supermarket.

Directions:
Wash the wheat thoroughly to get rid of any grit or sand. Add the wheat to a large pot. Fill the pot with water, add a few pinches of salt, and bring the water to a boil.
Cook the wheat until it’s fluffy and tender – this should take about 20 minutes.
Strain the wheat and let the water drain out thoroughly.
Prepare a surface by layering some towels down. Spread the wheat thinly on the towels and allow to dry overnight.
Add the wheat, walnuts, almonds, raisins, sesame seeds, pomegranate seeds and 2 tablespoons of the ground toast/crackers to a large mixing bowl and stir well with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Place the mixture in a tray or bowl that you would like to use. Press the mixture down to smooth it out and shape it (mound for tray or flat for bowl). Sprinkle some of the remaining toast/crackers on the top of the mixture to cover (no need to use all the crackers). Sprinkle the powdered sugar generously on top.
Decorate the top with any of the ingredients you choose. It is traditional to adorn the top with a cross.

Ingredients:
4 cups wheat grain, shelled
1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, lightly toasted
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups finely ground Zweiback, graham crackers, or paximadia
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sesame seeds lightly toasted
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
Almonds, powdered sugar, silver candies, walnuts or white raisins for decoration (optional)

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Due to celebrations in honour of the patron Saint of Skopelos, Reginos, tomorrow Thursday most shops, bakeries, banks and governmental offices will be closed.

You can visit the monastery from early in the morning until the afternoon. You can light a candle, visit the church and outbuildings and you will get sweets, bread and a drink afterwards. Take the road from Skopelos to Panormos that goes inland, past the quarry. Before the first incline up into the hills there is a sign for the monastery on the right. Park there and walk the short distant up to the church, especially if you are going early in the morning. If you come from the Glossa, Klima and Elios direction, drive to Skopelos and by the hairpin bend at the bottom of the last descent towards Skopelos is the sign for the monastery on the left.

A lot of local women go to the monastery a week before to start cleaning the church. They decorate several places with flowers and get the food ready for the celebration. The bishop and several other priests who come from the mainland days before to participate will visit the schools on the island and have talks with the students about issues that concern the young people.

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Thanks to Harald and Martina Dempf for this shot of the Loutraki epiphany race

Thanks to Harald and Martina Dempf for this shot of the Loutraki epiphany race

There’s a beer with your name on it if you can spot the Robert Wyatt song reference in our headline, but otherwise this is an early heads-up for Wednesday’s celebration of Epiphany, θεοφανια (Theofania) in Greek, and the annual ritual of swimmers racing to retrieve a cross thrown into the sea by a priest during the blessing of the seas for the new year. As part of our New Year’s resolution to make the user-friendly, interactive SkopelosNews more pro-active and less Skopelos-Town-centric, our illustration is of last year’s celebrations in Loutraki.

Predictions are for a mild if cloudy day, but still likely to be better than the snows that blew along Skopelos paralia last θεοφανια. Most shops and services will be closed, although cafés and restaurants will be open to serve the holiday crowds. The next day, Thursday January 7, is one of the year’s biggest name days, for people named Ioannis or Ioanna, and variants thereof. Traditionally, drinks, cakes, presents and even pocket money are given to name day celebrants. We know at least one who is hoping to receive a Scalextric set this year.

That, or a pony.

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Agia Barbara

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As tomorrow 4 December is the feast day of Agia Barbara (Άγια Βαρβάρα), tonight Vespers shall be observed beginning at 18:30. All are welcome though this year there will NOT be a party after Vespers. The monastery will re-open tomorrow morning for the liturgy.

Those who wish to head up to the monastery by vehicle should do so carefully and remember that the road is a mess but passable (photo link). We suspect that the condition of the road is the reason for no “celebration” after the service.

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The bells, the bells

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The tower of Ayios Nikolaos church, up the street from the Armoloi crafts gallery, is currently undergoing renovation. The church bell came down on Friday for a clean-up and to allow the workers to carry out repairs, and other parts of the tower are also being renovated. The works were snapped by a member of the SkopelosNews troika who happened to be searching for a lost earring. Can you guess which one?

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