Customs and Traditions
On Lesvos, local people observe Christmas according to long-established traditions, preparing various kinds of pastry and cookies (melomakarona – honey-dipped cookies, kourabiedes – sweet buns, etc.), singing Christmas carols, decorating a tree or a boat. In some villages there is a custom of decorating an olive branch instead. One of the Christmas customs in Lesvos consists in crushing a pomegranate, which is a symbol of abundance, on the threshold of the house. According to the custom of the “Unspoken Water”, consecrated water is brought home from the church, without the bearer’s speaking, either in going or returning, for good luck in the New Year. Also, a coin is put in the traditional New Year’s cake (“Vasilopita” in Greek) and whoever finds it is meant to have good luck throughout the year. In the village of Plomari and elsewhere on the island, there is a custom of hanging an olive branch on the front door of the house thereby to ensure good crops.
Many Easter-connected customs and traditions are observed on Lesvos, as well. Sweet Easter bread, called “tsoureki” in Greek, and bread rolls are prepared, and hard-boiled eggs are dyed red. On Good Friday, a bier is decorated with flowers in every church, which is then carried in a candlelit procession in the streets in an atmosphere of devoutness and mourning. On Holy Saturday night an Easter Resurrection service is held in churches shortly before midnight, a new fire is struck in the altar and given to people to light their candles. After midnight, loads of fireworks are set off, people return to their home and break the Lent fast with a late dinner serving traditional meals, including magiritsa, a soup made from lamb’s innards. On Easter Sunday a skewered lamb and a kokoretsi, a traditional Greek dish, consisting of seasoned lamb innards, are roasted on hot coals.
A traditional wedding ceremony on Lesvos consists of many rituals and customs. Guests are treated with traditional sweet pastries, including almond sweets and baklava, a desert made of thin layers of pastry, chopped nuts and sugar syrup or honey. Female relatives and friends help the bride dress, while singing traditional wedding songs. The wedding service at the church is followed by a feast with songs and dances.