Aegina Home & Living - Living in Aegina

 

 

 


LIVING IN AEGINA

What is it REALLY like to live in Aegina?

 

                                                           LIVING
 

LIVING                                                                              APRIL 2009

                    THE SLOW EROSION OF TRADITION

 

I personally believe that many Northern Europeans who immigrate to Greece, particularly the English, do so not for the sun but to bask in the warmth of a cohesive society that is seeped in traditions and celebrations that is proud of its history and wears its identity with pride.

My childhood in England was unquestionably traditional, a place where we built dens in our garden and played hide and seek until it got dark, where we would dance around the May pole at school and decorate harvest festival baskets which we would distribute to the needy. Carnival time was a wonderful opportunity to dress up and enter one of the many local competitions and the procession through town would last up to an hour; there were so many floats and the paths would be heaving with locals aching to get a glimpse of the colourful lorries. On carnival evening, we’d traipse through muddy fields in Wellington boots towards the sweet sticky smell of the funfair.

 Sunday school would stretch too slowly into Sunday lunch time, (always a roast) and always around the table. We would then wait for the arrival of our grandfather, who smelt of bread and nicotine but he would always clutch a white paper bag containing eitherRowntrees fruit pastills,fruitgums or Cadburys chocolate and we would savour these as we savoured the security of knowing that the adults at whose feet we were sat, truly cared about us.

Ask an Englishman over 40 today what it is to be English and he will struggle for a contemporary definition but he will wax lyrical about the English person he was as a child; for sadly, the English identity appears to have eroded along with the disappearance of our red telephone boxes and the obsession with political correctness. What our politicians should have done was to hinge on our history and turn memorable events such as Remembrance Day into big celebration days, where children could march through the streets clutching their Union Jacks. I don’t approve of nationalism but there is nothing wrong with patriotism.

So what has this to do with Greece?

Those who are familiar with Greece, will be aware of the 2 national days celebrating, historical events which are on March 25th and 28th October.

These days are national holidays during which time, schoolchildren and college students march in a parade, carrying their national flag, the honour of which is bestowed on the best students who have earned the privilege.

This March, I had to insist our daughter marched in the parade, the justification being that she is half Greek and her grandma had suffered terribly during times of occupation. She therefore owed history this debt of acknowledgement. “But most of my friends are staying at home”, she moaned. I then explained that if everyone took this attitude, the parade would cease to exist, and after all, her teachers were making the effort….So in Kipseli square, approximately forty percent of the Kipseli schoolchildren congregated to march and although the number was smaller than the previous time, the children looked splendid. What usually happens after the parade in Kipseli is the children all walk together to the bus-stop to take the bus down to Aegina town where the more serious parade takes place; where individuals, dressed up in their good clothing will have jostled for prime seats at the periphery of the numerous cafeterias so that they can cheer on the children and imbibe their bitter, muddy coffee in tandem with the ritual sucking of cigarette smoke.

This March however, the Kipseli children didn’t reach the town of Aegina because the bus didn’t arrive and the teacher who was supposed to have overseen this was nowhere to be seen! The flag bearer cried big, disappointed tears, her moment of glory never to be realised; her mother’s proud smile and expensive clothing bought for the occasion rendered redundant and a wave of indignant fury swept from the children as they protested they’d made the effort which seemed trivialised by the lack of concern of their teachers. 

What concerned me most about this though was it had never happened before and with each parade, there are fewer and fewer children.

When I chat to my many Greek friends about their parades and their traditions, sometimes they laugh and dismiss the events as un-necessary time wastage. I usually hotly oppose their views and remind them they are lucky to be part of a society where people are connected, enmeshed in the fabric of society, that they must uphold these values and not lose them. To return to England, our carnival  processions are now a pathetic shadow of what they used to be and last only 5 minutes and my old primary school doesn’t even have a May pole; I just hope that this malaise doesn’t eventually affect Greece.

As my parents always say ‘We are going to have a Tesco Easter in England and then we are going to Greece to celebrate a true Easter’

I hope that they will always be able to say this!!

Alison Lorentzos                                                               copyright 2009

 

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