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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-08-05

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Tourist arrivals post a 5 pct increase so far, said Alt. Tourism Minister Kountoura
  • [02] Family churches on Paros, an everlasting tradition

  • [01] Tourist arrivals post a 5 pct increase so far, said Alt. Tourism Minister Kountoura

    The tourism flow to Greece posts a 5 percent increase so far, stated Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura to AMNA radio "Praktoreio 104.9 FM" on Friday underlining that taking under consideration the prevailing conditions in Greece, it is a big increase.

    "The tourist period has been extended from early April to late November and we have opened new destination with direct flights from traditional markets as Britain and Germany as well as from new markets. We opened the markets of South Korea, China and the Middle East and we can see the results because the islands are full of tourists from these markets" noted Kountoura.

    She referred to the last-minute reservations, a campaign that bears fruit and aims to promote the Aegean islands that have received the migrant and refugee flows "Kos has fully recovered while Samos is at a good point" she said.

    Finally, she spoke of the alternative tourism as the medical, the spa and the bike tourism "Our vision is to have tourism throughout the year".

    [02] Family churches on Paros, an everlasting tradition

    The island of Paros, one of the gems of Cyclades, may be famous for its natural beauties, the pituresque villages, the food and its night life, is also an asset to the religious touristic industry of Greece, since it is widely known as the island of the Panagia Ekatontapyliani church and the various monasteries that are spread all over the island.

    Throughout the years, many visitors from Greece and the other Orthodox countries visit Panagia's Church every August 15, the Madonna's Assumption Day, in order to fulfill their religious duties in the traditional pilgrimage to the famous icon, that still many believe it was painted by Apostle Luke.

    However, the tourists strolling the meanders of the narrow streets of the island's villages, or perambulating the countryside for a sight-seeing tour, are often astounded at the sight of the numerous churches that proliferate almost in every step, around every corner, in the middle of a field, on every hill and even at the more forlorn places. Many authors, who visited the island before WWII, have remarked at the time that the island has more churches than proper houses.

    Sometimes, the foreign visitors are even more astonished when they fall into a gathering of people for a mass in these churches, many of them too small to accomodate all the people inside. Adding more to their astonishment, these masses, concluded bu Holy Communions, are not celebrated on Sunday, as it should be the case, and often happens two or more of these masses to be accomplished at the same time in churches within a small distance from one another. And afterwards, to their liking and enjoyment, they are invited to join an unfamiliar custom for the ending of a religious ceremony, where treats and drinks are offered to the people attending the mass, an improvised feast for the gathering that lasts for many hour, a reminder of the original 'Agape' banquet of the first Christians .

    Since to everything there is always a reason, in the case of the plethora of the small churches in Paros the tradition on the island dictates that every family, if possible, should found and maintain to its name a small church, dedicated to a specific Saint, or to one of the many names of Madonna and Christ, within its property. Sometimes, the building of such a church corresponds to an offering promise, after a family ordeal the Saint or the precious to all islanders Madonna, helped them to overcome.

    In fact, the offering clause is considered by many as a possible of this custom. In Paros, traditionally an island of fishermen and mariners, every family has at least one member that has sailed, one way or another. The rough Aegean Sea was always a constant cause of preoccupation and sorrow to the families. The salvation and the prospect of a safe return of one member of the family to his own people and on the land, has always been the headspring of an offering to the Holy. Moreover, in the centuries of the proliferation of piracy, Paros has always been pray to pirates, looting and slaughtering. People have fled to the interior of the island and upon the rough and unreachable hills and the offering of a new church would likely correspond to their prayers the invaders to leave soon and leave the countryside unharmed.

    So, each year on the Saint patron's day, these small churches are celebrating, by organizing a vesper the afternoon before and a mass the proper day. The family's task is to prepare the church for the big event, in which gather all family members and friends--who often travel around to attend other messes of the same Saint, on the same day, since the ceremonies are organized at different hours so that the priests and the people could make it to every celebrating premise.

    The churches are cleaned and whitewashed for the occasion, the icons, the candlesticks and the Holy Vestries of the mass are polished, the yard is leveled and chairs are brought, or banks are improvised by wooden planks. Outside the church gates, an arch of palms is set and the facade, the windows and the friezes are embellished with crowns of flowers and basil. Small flags, in the colours of Greece and the Church are hanged, and flowers are sparsely laid on the adjacent pathways and roads leading to the church, as an indication of the route to the visitors. As it was said before, each mass is accompanied with treats and drinks for the attendants and afterwards a rich banquet is set for the family members and close friends and, of course, to everyone who would like to join in--no one is excluded and all are welcomed on this day of joy.

    To some extend, this custom is imperative to be followed by every generation, the newest members of the family when they marry and begin their new lives away from their parents often found their own family church. As a consequence, the number of the churches on the island is continuously multiplying, since even the newcomers adopt to the custom, whether they are moved by religious belief or by mere constructioners opportunism.

    To put things more clearly, the power of the tradition is such, that the terrains destinated to the building of such a church jumped every red tape obstructions and had the absolute priority to get a building license from the town-planning services. Thus, many contractors have discovered in religion and its power over institutions a nice sidetrack to bypass time-consuming proceedings or even prohibitions to construct. So, until the deceit was exposed and cracked down on, with the pretext of building a family church, they also laid the foundations of their houses, hotels or bungalows!

    Regardless of any modern deviation, the tradition abiding customs of Paros are sacresaintly preserved so far, even by the youngest generations. Especially in the months of summer, when the days of important Saints are many and the weather is favourable to these gatherings, the masses in these small churches are plenty. And it is a unique spectacle and strongly recommendable to whoever his path bring it on this way.

    George-Byron Davos


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