Naxos Traditions and Folklore
Habits and customs, prose and poetry, folk art and architecture, dances and songs are all a reflection of the soul of a stock of people whose roots reach deep into the past.
Out of all the Cycladic islands only Naxos today has such a lively tradition in music and dancing. For the young Naxians or Axiotakia (a person from Naxos is called an Axiotis in everyday language) it is said they come out of their mother's bellies dancing, because they learn to dance so from an early age, as if they had the rhythm in their genes. It is not accidental that well known families of musicians (such as the Konitopoulos, Hadjopoulos, Koukoularis families or Mathaios Gianoulis and Barberakis), who have kept Greece 's island music alive, come from Naxos . The island music is still very much alive in Naxos today. In Kinidaros, Komiaki, Koronos, Apiranthos, Moni, Damarionas, Eggares and Agios Arsenios, entire families have devoted their lives to music: their members become singers, musicians or song writers.
The folk music instruments that are popular in Naxos are the Souvliari (a kind of shepherd's pipe), the doubaki (a drum), the tzambouna, the violin and the lute. The souvliari was used at festivals till the early part of the 20th century and the tzambouna was the main instrument used in the local festivals up until 1920-1930, when the violin took over. The tzambouna is still used, but mostly at small festivals taking place in people's houses and during the carnival period. The violin and the lute have become the most popular instruments (the violin especially). These came to Naxos from Asia Minor and left their stamp on the "musical" life of Naxians over the last century.
If you get the chance to go to an island festival, you will be able to discover the beauty of the Naxian music and dancing for yourself until late morning times.
You can watch a few videos to see how the people of the island of Naxos entertain themselves:
It is true that local habits and customs tend to fade away in our modern day life-style. However, in Naxos , and especially in the mountain areas, these local customs remain and retain much of their original form and meaning. This is partly due to the geographical isolation of the area and the fact that communication between the villages and the main town of Hora - up till the '60s -, was difficult, being only possible by mule or donkey along narrow paths.
Apokria -The Carnival period which leads up to Lent, before Easter.
If you happen to be on Naxos during the time of the Apokria, you will have the pleasure of enjoying the festival blessed by the god Dionysus, which comes to a head on the week-end before Shrove Monday. On this last weekend, celebrations are held in most of the village squares: proper feasts in which you can savor the traditional food, the plentiful wine and the music. In Apeiranthos there is great commotion and excitement when the Koudounatoi (the bell ringers) appear dressed in a peasant's hooded cloak and storm the streets of the village shaking their bells accompanied with cries and shouts. On Shrove Monday the villagers, chiefly in the villages of the Livadi area, dress up in skirts, colored ribbons and gold coins and dance in teams in the squares.
These folk customs involving masquerade probably originate to the times of the ancient Dionysian festivals. So it is not coincidence that these customs of the Apokria take place during the same season as the ancient Greek festivals, the Dionysian springtime.
The First of May - On the first of May people usually go out into the nearby countryside to collect flowers. With these flowers you are supposed to make a wreath - called the May - and hang it above the entrance to your house, as it is believed to bring good fortune.
Klidonas - On this night, the 23rd of June, the locals light up the bonfires of St. John and burn their May wreaths. Young people and children must leap over the fire three times. In general, a lot of young people take part in Klidonas night, which is followed by a festival of singing and dancing in the village square. According to Greek folk tradition, fire has the power to ward off of evil spirits, sickness and all evil.
Trigos - Rakitzia (Hadjanemata) - Wine and raki make vintage festival.
At the beginning of autumn, the Trigos is a period of great excitement. The wine barrels are prepared, cleaned, repaired, while men, women and children gather in numbers at the vineyards to gather the precious fruit. Then the grapes are processed in the traditional way: in a great barrel (called Linou) they are squashed by the bare feet of the revelers. The juice is then left to ferment in barrels to become sweet wine, which the ancients called pausilipos, i.e. bringing an end to sorrows.
The grape stalks that remain do not get thrown away but they are used to make raki, a necessary partner for the cold of the wintertime. October is usually the month when raki is made. The grape stalks are put in a specially designed vessel, the harani and with the help of fire, raki is distilled. During the raki-making friends and neighbors or even passers-by call in to taste the new raki.
These religious festivities are the continuations of ancient customs which have thus survived to the present day. Once a year every village or settlement celebrates its own patron saint’s day. At the evening of that day, the music begins and the celebrations involve feasting and dancing until the early hours of the next day. In earlier times the festivals took place in the open air, something which contributed to their special charm. Nowadays the festivals often take place in the tavernas which are situated around the village square. Should you find yourselves at a festival, you will almost certainly be swept along in the merriment and find yourselves dancing. Don’t miss this rare opportunity! Take by hand one of the older people and start dancing. Observe the way they dance and you will see why they justly say that in Naxos , they learn first to dance and then to walk!!!!!!!!
The Folk Songs in Aperathou Village of Naxos
A taste of the real Naxos "feast" with the most characteristic form of recreation is the couplets known as "kotsakia" (two-verse poems). The majority of the people of Apeiranthos or other villages, both women and men, compose for every occasion, in times of joy or sadness, these songs, which are either sung immediately or noted down to be sent to friends or relatives who have left the island. This is a unique phenomenon as part of the folk culture of the Naxos island. Apeiranthos is called “the village that inspires and writes verse” – because most of its inhabitants- women, men and children- compose those couplets with a very consummate ease without putting any effort, on every occasion, during the holidays, weddings, celebrations, feasts or even in their every day life when they communicate with each other. The most well-known couplets or “kotsakia” mainly include iambic octosyllabic and always rhyming lines.
Every year the Cultural Organization of the Municipality of Naxos organizes a series of cultural events, the so-called “Dionysia” that culminate in the last weekend of August with wine-feasts. It consists of nights of dancing and music with traditional bands, theatrical performances, concerts, painting exhibitions, exhibitions of photography, sculpting, etc.
Resources were found at http://www.naxosisland.eu/about_naxos/about_naxos.html