St George’s Day is the most important day in the calendar as he is the island’s patron saint.
The islanders have a particular reverence for the saint. They see him as a protector and they love to honour his Day, his Church and his Day.
The saint’s day in the Orthodox Church is April 23rd. If that falls within the period of Lent the feast is moved to Easter Monday.
Since 1870 when the church was built the islanders honour the day through personal participation in all the events of the day.
At first, after Holy Mass the icon was taken in procession around the village, chanting hymns and singing praise to the saint, to bless every single household. Afterwards they returned to the church to conclude the rituals.
One of the faithful, the “Panigiras”, would undertake to make the preparations for the meal to be offered to the congregation. In this he was helped by many volunteers in the saint’s honour. They had set aside a special area for the cooking, the Maggipio, from the Byzantine word Magippos, meaning baker-cook. The cooking was done over wood fires. The meal was served in a special, dining area furnished with long wooden tables and benches. The meal comprised goat’s meat in tomato sauce, tripe soup, salad, wine and soft drinks. This has continued to this day with very few changes.
In the early 1970s there was a significant increase in the number of those wishing to undertake the task of preparing the feast.
By unanimous decision of the inhabitants, in 1973, the task is assigned by means of drawing lots among the volunteers. They also draw lots for a deputy in case of the first person’s inability to fulfil his duties.
In 1975 a common wish was expressed that the procession should follow a circular route, passing by the small beach of Loutro, where the fishing boats could start following it by sea and that it should make a stop in the harbour to bless the sea and the boats.
In 2000, the island received a piece of the relic of the saint, amidst an atmosphere of honour and emotion. Since then, this is placed on the Ritual Bier used on Good Friday, adorned with flowers and carried by four of the faithful.
And it follows the procession of the icon, which is held by the Panigiras.
In honour of the saint, crowds of people attend the festivities from the neighbouring islands and the rest of Greece, while there are also visitors from abroad.
The procession crosses the village, the whole route being strewn with rosemary. In the area of Loutro it meets the fishing boats which provide a sea escort as far as the harbour with whistle blows and fireworks.
At the harbour the procession stops and the fishing boats moor one next to the other to receive the blessing. Then an exuberant play begins in the sea.
The procession continues around the village and back to the church.
At the entrance to the church the Bier Is held aloft for the congregation to pass underneath to receive the saint’s blessing. Afterwards the meal is served under the supervision of Panigiras, whose responsibility it is. He is helped in this by a host of volunteers, who, over the previous days, have prepared over a thousand servings. Their labours do not cease until the area is cleaned at the end of the meal.
The menu consists of veal in tomato sauce, fried potatoes, tripe soup, meatballs, cheese, salad, soft drinks, wine and beer. The cooking is done over wood fires apart from the potatoes which are fried in deep friers.
The feast develops into a celebration at the village tavernas.