Andros has a number of customs and traditions that really make it stand out from any other island in the Cyclades. Its diversity both in terms of its monuments and landscapes as well as its traditions make the island so unique. The customs and traditions of Andros blend Cycladic with more cosmopolitan elements, as it was predominantly a maritime island in the past. Today, however, Andros has managed to preserve its traditions and unique characteristics despite the increase in tourism and the passage of time. Andros is a wonderful island with many customs and traditions that will surely amaze you on a visit.
Andros – Customs and traditions
Easter in Andros
On Holy Thursday the reading of the Twelve Gospels and the crucifixion of Jesus take center stage. In the morning people decorate the Epitaph with colorful flowers and the process can go on even after midnight or all night.
On Holy Friday, after the pilgrimage of the people to the Epitaph, the procession begins in Chora, Korthi, Gavrio, and Batsi in a huge sea of people. The Epitaph passes through the picturesque alleys of the villages while the candles and chants create a thrilling atmosphere that cannot be described in words.
Crowds of people and believers gather on Holy Saturday in the churches of Andros to receive the holy light. Suddenly, as soon as “Christos Anesti” is heard, hundreds of firecrackers suddenly give their light into the dark sky. It is a spectacle that draws thousands of tourists every year, and even the media document this unique event.
Easter Sunday in Andros
On Easter Sunday in Andros, you must definitely try the “Lambriatis” or the lamb of Lambri. This is an Easter dish of Andros, made with local products, such as stone cheese. On the same day in the afternoon, after the meal and the feast, the “fireworks war” begins. Suddenly, after the “Mascoulas” battle cry is heard, everyone runs in anticipation of the deafening noise of the “mascoulas” that travels across the island. Finally, in Paleopolis, the ancient capital of the island, the village square is filled with people playing the Tsunia. Tsunia is a game similar to well-known bowling and usually, the losers buy beers for the winners.
Christmas in Andros
Christmas in Andros has something special and is something worth experiencing. From the day of Agios Nikolaos onwards, the island “wears” its Christmas costume and the houses begin to prepare for the birth of Jesus Christe. Delicious kourabiedes with amazing local butter give their aroma to the streets of Andros. On the other hand, housewives make Finikia, the Andriotic melomakarona, which have a special taste and smell.
On New Year’s Day, Andros has another interesting custom called “Heretoures”. The men form one or more groups and go for “greetings” or “salutations” to all the houses in the village. They sing carols and hand out wishes. The various groups of men that are formed are friends or people with common performances, such as old schoolmates or fellow students.
On the island, New Year’s carols are made according to the island’s custom, as children make a boat from tins and cans they collect throughout the year. The decoration of the boat is really special as it is adorned with flags and small balloons like the ones that hang on real ships. Once the children have finished building and decorating their ship they start visiting the houses. They carry with them a small basket for sweets and treats, as well as money given by the hosts.
Other customs of Andros
The well-known Andriotic Wedding is one of the customs of Andros that has become known throughout Greece. Before the ceremony, families gather at the couple’s house and treat people to sweets, soumada, and cake. Then, the groom appears on a horse, followed by his relatives with violins and music, and receives the bride. Her parents give him as a gift a ram decorated with flowers and a red ribbon as a good luck charm. In the end, they all head to the church for the marriage ceremony and the revelry continues until the morning.
Baptism and naming ceremony
One of the customs of Andros is the process of naming the children. In the majority of cases, especially in the surrounding villages of Andros, the first boy in the family was named after the grandfather on the father’s side and the second boy was named after the grandfather on the mother’s side. On the other hand, the first girl of the family takes the name of the grandmother on the mother’s side and the second girl takes the name of the grandmother on the father’s side.
The parade of Agios Nikolaos
On December 6, the day of St. Nicholas, the whole island celebrates the patron saint of sailors. On the coastal road of Gavrio, students parade with lit torches and are accompanied by the philharmonic band, in honor of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Gavrio.
The Pork Festival
Finally, the Pork Festival takes place in autumn and is a celebration that you will find in several Aegean islands. On those days, friends and acquaintances gather in their homes to prepare the pork meat, doing all the necessary work, so they can store it for the whole year. No part of the pork is thrown away, as the Andriots have always had the utmost respect for nature and its gifts.
Photos by: Tina Papaioannou, Anna Despotidi