A pleasant surprise was in store for the people of Thessaloniki who chose to take an afternoon stroll in front of the White Tower, as members of the Sarakatsani Association Eleftherio-Kordelio, Evosmos “Stavraetos”, revived the famous Sarakatsani Caravan.
Women adorned in colorful costumes, wearing scarves, and men in Fustanellas, and the traditional black trousers (Bourazani) and vests (Tsamantani), accompanied the horses. The descendants of the ancient Greek, nomadic “tribe”, are proud that they were given the opportunity to revive the caravan, a milestone in the lives of their ancestors.
The caravan would depart each spring for the “Tselingato” (temporary settlement) in the mountains, where the animals would graze and the Sarakatsani remained from the Feast of their Patron Saint, St. George, until the Feast of St. Demetrius, when they would return.
The caravan was led by the youngest bride of the “Tselingato”, a beautiful young woman wearing a wreath in her hair.
“The caravan, during those years, would start with values”, states the President of the Sarakatsani Folklore Museum of Serres, Vassilis Tsaousis, who also shed light on the setup of the Caravan revival; “The horses, adorned with embroidered rugs (velentza), to cover the load, would carry the entire belongings of the Sarakatsani, who would travel to the mountains with their sheep. All men and women were dressed in their formal attires.
The Caravan was led by the youngest bride of the Tselingato, something which reflects another philosophy of the Sarakatsani:
“I honor you to honor me”.”
Meanwhile, the elders and young children were ahead of the Caravan (they would set off at least 2-3 hours earlier). And this did not only happen to prevent delays, but for the Caravan to reflect youth and vitality. The procession of the elders and children, known as “karakoli” or “sia mprosta” (straight ahead), would carry the bread, water and food… It is estimated that daily the Caravan would follow a 6-7 km route, until they would meet with the rest in their overnight rest location (konaki).
29-year old Nicholaos, President of the Sarakatsani Association Eleftherion – Kordelio, Evosmos “Stavraetos” felt, justly pleased with the event, which took place on the occasion of the 22nd Panhellenic Sarakatsani Conference.
“Our Association has four dance groups with approximately 200 members, aged between 5 to 80”, he states. “Our aim is to keep tradition alive, as we inherited it from our parents and grandparents”.
The Caravan, along with the conference attendees from all over the country and Bulgaria, progressed to Ioannis Vellidis Conference Center to enjoy the great Sarakatsan Feast, held by the organizers with traditional singing and dances.
22nd Panhellenic Sarakatsani Conference
The Municipality of Eleftherio – Kordelio Evosmos, forms the most densely populated Sarakatsani region in all Greece, home to over 7.000 Sarakatsani. That is why the local authorities willingly responded to the request of “Stavraetos” to organize the 22nd Panhellenic Conference of Sarakatsani in Thessaloniki, under the auspices of Neapoli – Stavroupoli Holy Metropolis.
“The first Sarakatsani settlement, in the former Municipality of Eleftherio – Kordelio, took place from 1964 until 1967” reports the current mayor, Efstathios Lafazanidis. He, like all the officials greeting the launch of the two-day conference, congratulated the Sarakatsani on their will to bestow their customs and traditions to the younger generations.
The speech of the Metropolitan of Neapoli and Stavroupoli, Varnavas, was very touching, who characterized the Sarakatsani as a “pure part of the Greek nation, people with ideals and vision”, stressing among others that, in the difficult times our country is experiencing, it is necessary more than ever, to seek the values of our nation.
The speech of the General Secretary of the Sarakatsani Student Association of Thessaloniki, Lamprini Kotsampasi, focused on the timeless role of the youth in disseminating customs and tradition.
The speech made by Mathematician, Athanasios Galatas, who is researching folklore and other elements from the lives of the Sarakatsani was also very interesting, as he analyzed the importance of the word “comrade” (syntrofos), which is derived from Ancient Greek and is a word of particular importance to the Sarakatsani.
Demetris Tangas, the Secretary of the Sarakatsani Brotherhood in Athens, referred to the need to make use of the internet to promote the Sarakatsan Tradition, among others, stressing that unfortunately very often, much of the information on Sarakatsani posted online is wrong.
An exhibition featuring traditional costumes, books and photography is also being hosted at the conference site (a hotel in Thessaloniki).
Source: ANA – MPA