In our village the first thing we did was get off the bus at 4.30am and we met my dad’s aunt who lives in Florina – Tasoula who picked us up and we stayed in her house. We slept again – in the morning we picked up my aunty Jenny at the train station and we drove to the village where we went to church because it was a special day where they throw the cross in the water.
I think it’s Jesus’ baptism or something like that. Even in the middle of winter the young men jump in the water to get the cross. Whoever gets it first it brings them good luck for the whole year.
Then we went to visit our relatives at their houses. For lunch we went to aunty Seve (my Giagia’s sister) for a delicious lunch. We had burgers, potatoes, pitas, tzatziki, dips and salads. It was really yummy.
When we left our village (Kato Ydrousa, 9 kms from the town of Florina – from hereafter called ‘the village’) back in August to move to Crete, we didn’t think we would be back till Easter time. Our house in the village is very big and comfortable though it has no heating. Since they have freezing temperatures and snow for approximately three months you simply can’t do without 24 hour heating. To get heating installed and the energy needed in wood or petrol would be prohibitively expensive so that is the main reason we didn’t consider living in our village for a year. Crete was the perfect choice for so many reasons.
When we found out that aunty Gigga Jenny was going to the village for a few days we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join her. The kids so wanted to see the village in the winter time. A beautiful winter wonderland that I remember from my childhood. However – despite the freezing cold there was just no snow. We missed the huge cold snap in Northern Europe by a week or so. So we had to settle for a few wonderful days visiting our relatives.
That always means going from house to house, having coffees and cake or chocolate, or a whole meal – you simply can’t leave without having something – that would be rude. You either end up feeling full or have a pocketful of chocolate. Or both.
On the 6th of January we arrived just in time for the end of the church service.
It is a big day being Epiphany and everyone goes to church, then there’s a procession down to the river for the throwing of the cross.
The small river was not so small when I was a young kid. It flowed strongly and maybe I had rose coloured glasses, but there wasn’t as much rubbish strewn along its banks. People take lots of pride in their homes but not so their village environment. This is a trend we see all over Greece – if it’s not in your backyard…….it doesn’t matter.
Anyway, back to the river, the priest does his appropriate blessings of the gold plated cross that he will throw into the water symbolizing Christ’s baptism. The village folk get into their best positions so they can cheer and watch.
The young teen or 20 something men get ready to jump into the freezing water with their eyes on the prize. All very dramatic and then over like a flash…….and everyone disperses and heads to the cafeteria (aka the cafe in other cultures) for celebratory drinks and nibbles.
It felt good to be back there in my hometown. Hometown – that’s an interesting word and yes I do feel a sense of homecoming when I arrive in my village…….but Crete has fast become my Greek hometown too. I feel a sense of home coming when I go back to Chicago and Tokyo where I spent a year each. Can home be many places? Sure, why not!
Our last day in Florina was very sad as we had to say goodbye to aunty Jenny – we had so so much fun travelling with her for almost a month – it was very flowing and easy – definitely a good travel buddy and of course the kids adore her which helps.
Then the next day it was our turn to go – a train, a bus, a plane and a taxi ride later we reached our beautiful town of Agios Nikolaos in Crete and breathed a sigh of relief.
Have a wonderful day