Christmas in Agios Magikades
On Christmas morning in Agios Magikades, the church bells clang at just after seven thirty and then again at nine.
A little old man with a wizened face and a young man with an enormous moustache ring the bells outside. The younger man is joined by his son, who takes hold of the rope and goes up with it, several times.
We follow two smartly dressed people from the platia in through the north door. The service has already been going for at least an hour.
The church is full, men at the front, singing responses to the litany as the white-and-gold-robed priest stands the other side of the iconostasis in front of the holy table. He has his back to us but we see and hear him through the central door, known in the Eastern Orthodox tradition as the beautiful gates.
Two small children run up and down the aisle, a boy with gelled hair and a girl with a new Barbie doll. A woman puts a euro in the box, pulls out a candle and lights it.
The air conditioning units blast out hot air as faces with which we are familiar from card games in the kafenion say their prayers. There is the man who looks like an older and smaller version of Mr Grigg’s brother, in a smart black coat, neatly pressed, light grey trousers and black, highly polished loafers. There is the teacher of ancient Greek, normally so vociferous when he is losing at cards but in here he's as meek as a lamb.
The ceilings and walls are adorned with wonderfully over-the-top paintings of saints sitting on clouds, a big and bearded, terrifying God pontificating, Adam and Eve expelled from Eden and a delicious devil on judgment day. In the corner of one picture I see God taking a rest from creating the world by sitting down next to a unicorn.
The service is in a language we don't understand. Mumbo jumbo but not as we know it. And all the better for it. It adds to the mystery.
A mobile phone rings just as the three male voices at the front achieve harmony.
The collection is taken, the congregation collectively crosses itself and then there is a power cut. The lights go out, including the overhead ‘candles’, which are electric fakes, and the wooden seats suddenly become very cold. The church’s garish interior is lit only by the candles in memory of loved ones, shafts of light piercing through two small stained glass windows and a laser beam of sunshine shooting through the south door.
The electricity comes back on, signalled by a melodic ping-ping-ping from the air conditioning units, and the priest distributes the holy bread.
Outside, the women chatter as the men go into the kafenion for coffee and a game of cards. There is a shout from the corner as Spiros the turkey man says in Greek that our two coffees have been taken care of.
The delightful Dee-Dee, who, like a modern-day Athena, dispenses wisdom along with drinks from behind the counter, gives me a pomegranate for New Year's Day to break on the ground for luck.
Meanwhile down on the beach, the hardy take a Christmas Day swim.
That’s about it.
Love Maddie x