Look Inside: Sample Story 2 from Daily Bread —May 2015

Panigiri for Feast of Prophet Elias

It is July 20, the Feast of the Prophet Elias throughout Greece. St. Elias, I’m told, was a seaman who grew so tired of his seafaring life that he traveled to the highest mountain to live and finish his days. Today churches named St. Elias rest high above villages on the mountain tops.

I arrive at the tiny church above the village of Oxzia. Far below lies the long valley of the Voidomatos River; nearby, an enchanted forest where light filters through trees dense with moss. In the glade, two lamb carcasses rotate on an open fire.

Church services started at 8:00 a.m.; party preparations the same time although the men roasting the lambs started drinking tsipouro, the local favorite, long before that. The meadow next to the forest begins to fill up with Nissan trucks and nearby, each family picks a spot and spreads out rugs, packs of food, drinks—tsipouro, lots of tsipouro. The musicians arrive. The "papa" arrives. Even the soldiers who are busy these days rooting out Civil War and WW2 land mines from the countryside, lean on their Jeeps enjoying a drink.

Now, the klarina, drums, guitar and accordion fill the forest clearing with sweet music, drinks go round, a line of dancers forms and winds round and round the meadow. Nikos yells out and raises his glass: “Γεια σου, Μαρια μου! Ελα, Γειοργο!” The families cheer and empty their glasses. The musicians begin their rounds now, sitting on each family’s blanket, singing and playing for a spell before moving on to the next. The women spread out more food, glasses are re-filled and far off the birds sing, a sound like crystal high in the trees. The soft light lulls the sleepy ones and by early afternoon, the “sheepers”, weary from the early morning milking, are sprawled out on the blankets deep in slumber.

July 20, 2009

Oxzia, Epirus