Fire  has a major role in the process of human evolution, development of language, socialization, technologies. Civilization would not be possible without fire.  And matches  made much easier its  lighting.




Salt shaped civilization from the very beginning.  It is so essential to the humans that did conciderably influence the history of mankind. 




The history of sugar is linked with  ruthless profiteering, colonial ambitions, human labor and  tragedy. It was once a medicine, a panacea kept in locked box by those who could afford it, and an exotic, rare, costly luxury. 




  Olive oil is not only a staple in the diet of the olive producing regions, but is also a key component of Greek identity. It is tied to many folk and religious rituals and holds a special symbolic significance in the crucial events in the cycle of life.   


In 1897, matches, salt, sugar and olive oil  were some of the Greek state monopolies. But Greece in order to service the public debt assigned to the Internationl Financial Control- which was imposed after 1893 bankarptcy-  left the profits of the monopolies and the custom duties of the port of Piaraeus   to the creditors.   Greeks  experienced the consequences of that bunkruptcy and the cruelty of debt  until 1978.

It may sound bizarre, but if fire, olive oil and salt are symbols of civilization and sugar is a symbol of pure pleasure,  the imposition of the IFC on these commodities  seemed  like the symbol of a leap away from the civilized life.





Thin ribbons of fried dough or strips having the thickness of a pencil…
They are crunchy but fragile and melt in the mouth.
It’s quite easy to make them; you just need flour and water or orange juice and sometimes eggs or/and yeast. Cut the pastry sheet into squares of 7cm width or into ribbons of 10 cm x 15 cm or strips of 0,50 cm x 18 cm.
Twist ribbons and strips around two fingers while you transfer them to the hot olive oil, producing shapes of flowers, double cross and tubes.
Deep -fry until they start to turn gold. Remove and drain on paper towel.
Then pour honey or petimezi (grape syrup) over them and cover with chopped walnuts, sesame seeds and cinnamon powder.

In past, a great deal was prepared before the Christmas Eve. These fried pastries were the traditional treat to the Christmas visitors and gifts to widows and to those in mourning. They are called lalangia, lalangites, diples, pitoules, tiganites, avgokalamara etc. and evoke the swaddling clothes of Christ.
Spargana (swaddling clothes), is what they are called in Northwestern Greece. There, at night, dawning Christmas, the women pour a light batter of flour and water on a heated stone or piece of metal and make a sort of pancakes. Then, they pour honey or syrup over them and sprinkle them with pounded walnuts and almonds. Sometimes layers of spargana are piled upon each other, each one spread with honey and covered with chopped nuts. When it’s time to serve, the spargana have absorbed the honey and are tasty and fluffy.

These pastries belong to the special foods, which are offered by women to women in puerperium. When offered to Mary, they identify her with every other new mother. They also identify her son with every other newborn and in a way they prefigure his death since their shape is so similar to a shroud.

CHRISTMAS #2. Pig killing & animal sacrifice


Large numbers of pig carcasses are hanging on hooks in butcher shops. Christmas day is near….
Because the pig is the traditional meat for the most regions in Greece. And the days before and after Christmas is the peak of the pig killing season which begins  around the feast of St Demetrius (26 October).
Is there a connection between pig slaughtering and ancient animal sacriface?

It is known that ancient Greeks sacrificed pigs to Demeter, greek godess of agriculture and fertility, to her daughter Persephone and the chthonic dieties. Why? Partly because of the special powers attributed to pigs on account of their association with fertility and abundance of flesh and blood. Partly because of their association with dirt; since evil spirits were often equated with dirt, pigs’ death became equated with evil spirits’ death. For the same reasons pigs symbolized the ancient Greek vegetation daemon with the ambivalent powers to give fertility and destruction. Moreover, these animals were particularly important in rituals practiced by and for women (such as Demeter’s festivals). Why? Women were linked to fertility, however like pigs, evil spirits and the dead, they were considered ‘dirty’ when not ritually purified.

But in the year 392 A.D., the Olympic Pantheon was officially pronounced dead by Theodosios the Great, who made Christianity the state religion of the Byzantine Empire. The truth is that the 12 ancient Gods had already declined, despite the fact that Christianity had absorbed many strands of ancient religion and philosophy. Did the animal sacrifices of the pagan Graeco-Roman world decline, as well?
Like a large part of the ancient Greek worshipping system which had been transformed and survived within Christianity – f.i. the hero and heroine cult, the honor paid to the dead etc.- conceptions, faiths, rituals and the strong tradition of animal sacrifice did transform too. Despite the criticism of the Fathers of the Curch, the decisions of Ecumenical and local Synods and the condemnations, animal sacrifice was much common among laymen throughout the Byzantine and post-Byzantine world. Why? Because on the one hand the Church did try to separate its cultic code from this kind of sacrifice but on the other hand it did not reject certain cults and rituals that had derived from the pagan religion. Why? Demetrios Constantelos (Christian Hellenism) has observed that ‘There were at least two distinct cultures during both the ancient and mediæval periods of Greek history: one peasant and one urban and elite. Mediæval peasant culture had more in common with ancient peasant culture than with the contemporary Christian culture of the educated urban elite, since it could more readily accommodate the lower forms of religious beliefs and practices.  So, in its attemp to spread the Christian faith, the Church did not systematically reject customs and beliefs that existed before and outside Christianity.
Until the 1960s, pig slaughtering was an important social occasion and a necessity,
for it meant full and plenty for all. Today pig killing is restricted in certain Aegean islands and mountain areas. However, killing and butchering are always done by the men who first make the sign of cross on the pig’s head, but it is always the women who make sausages, cure and smoke bones, meat, fat, cook, etc.

Some of the blood is poured on the fields or on the animals to ensure fertility and prosper through sympathetic magic.