The region of the Meteora Geopark is characterized by important elements of intangible cultural heritage, which concern folk events, food culture, customs, music, dance and traditional professions.
The communities which are responsible for the living tradition of the region have expressed their support for the nomination of the Meteora Geopark and their intention to cooperate as well, in order to plan and implement actions to highlight and preserve the intangible cultural heritage of the region. In particular, the planned actions aim to recognize the value of the living tradition, in order to ensure the possibility of its transmission to the younger generations, always through the prism of conscious or nonconscious choice.
The management of natural resources, the development and preservation of cultural diversity and the improvement of biodiversity are goals that can be achieved through the activation of local society, intangible cultural heritage operators and support from the public administration.
In this direction, the Management Body of the Meteora Geopark, in collaboration with the communities of intangible cultural heritage of the region, has drawn up the following set of actions with a four-year horizon, at which time the results will be evaluated by re-evaluating and readjusting them.
A. Agri-Food Traditions Festival
In collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Meteora and Mushroom Museum, it is planned the implementation of an annual 10 – day festival, highlighting the agro-food traditions of the region. It is noted that in Kalambaka, the Mushroom Festival is organized annually by the Museums, lasting 3 days, aiming to promote the nutritional and therapeutic value of mushrooms and their health benefits, but also to reveal new taste experiences offered by the multitude of edible wild mushrooms of our country.
As part of the event, mushroom knowledge seminars, mushroom collection and identification, truffle hunting, as well as concerts, cultural events and activities for children are organized. As a highlight of the celebration, 10-15 chefs offer thousands of portions of mushrooms to the visitors. The Mushroom Festival, which is a social offering of the Museums and has free entry, attracting thousands of participants from all over Greece, will be included in the official program of the Festival, constituting its climax.
Οther actions of the Festival concern the recording and highlighting of the different types of pies of the local cuisine (vegetable pie with wild herbs, pastos, greens and feta cheese, cassata with dough, feta cheese and leeks, etc.), in a way that the element is given symbolic meaning through the sharing it implies, and its role in the customary circumstances of the local society. Also, in recording and highlighting other agri-food traditions of the region, such as cheese-making, wine-making, Farsala halva, etc., and their connection with modern entrepreneurship.
In addition to the public actions that will be included in the Festival with the participation of the representatives of the intangible cultural heritage of the region, the documentation of these elements will also be sought with the collaboration of scientists, with the aim of producing corresponding printed and digital editions, which will make accessible their registration to the general public and to anyone interested.
B. Implementation of workshops of traditional techniques of the region
Considering that there are few workshops of crafts, weavers, church paintings, bronze items of folk art, etc. in the wider area, the Management Body of the Meteora Geopark has designed a program of experiential learning of the traditional techniques found within and around its spatial boundaries, which it is mainly aimed at young people, however making use of the experience of older craftsmen, whose knowledge must be recorded and transmitted to younger generations. The ultimate goals of the action are both to raise awareness and to develop the professional activity of young people in this area with an emphasis on the sustainable development of data and the possibilities offered by new technologies.
C. Conferences and lectures on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (2003)
The Management Body of the Meteoron Geopark will seek cooperation with the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, responsible for the implementation in Greece of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO, 2003), but also other research higher educational institutions, in order to implement information and awareness days for local communities about the possibilities provided by this Convention for the promotion and preservation of living tradition. Emphasis will be placed on the process of registering elements in the National Index of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece as well, with representatives of the host communities having already expressed an initial interest in folk events.
In the village of Kalogiroi, a custom that has its roots many centuries ago and continues to this day, is that of the “Afanos”. The root of the word comes from the verb “faino”, which means lighting the fire on the altar of a village or region with satirical teasing. Every last Sunday of Apokriai (The Greek Carnival, similar to Halloween), when the celebrations were at their peak, the residents, especially the young people, would gather at the “Feggaria” site, stick a wooden post of about 3-4 meters high into the ground, and then place piles of dry bushes, cedar, and holly branches around it, and then set them on fire (similar to the burning of the Carnival King). The flames, rising high, could be seen by residents and tourists from neighboring villages, who visited the village to admire the sight up close. In fact, some years ago there were competitions between the villages, for which village would light the biggest fire. Over the years, sparklers and fireworks were added to this spectacle to make the end of the Carnival more impressive.
The New Year’s custom of the Kalikantzaroi
The New Year’s custom of the Kalikantzaroi, which has its roots centuries back, is preserved to this day in the village of Gorgogyri of the Trikala Region, a village located at the foot of Mount Koziakas. The Kalikantzaroi are one of the most ancient masquerading customs of the region. Etymologically, there is a connection with the word “Karkatzalia” which comes from a production of the Turkish language with a specialized wording of the words “karkas and zalim” that in Greek translates as “skeleton and hard”. Thus, the participants have to show adequate strength to endure walking across the village, holding heavy bells. They are dressed in thick cloths because of the heavy weather when the custom is performed. Their uniform consists of a shepherd’s cape, the bourazani (trousers) and boots. The costume is completed with the big bells and characteristic handmade masks, decorated with wool, aiming for a very scary final effect. The goal of the custom is to bring good luck and remove “evil”, as the loud sound of the bells drives away evil demons and protects the village households.
In Elati, the Theophany is celebrated in the old way found mainly in the rural communities of northern Greece. Similar to the custom of Gorgogyri village, the men of Elati wore old ‘skoutina’ clothes (made of raw wool) and tied around their waists large and small bells, with the aim of scaring and chasing away the goblins, as they passed from house to house – in the local dialect, the people in disguise are called Loukandjaria. The housewives of the houses offer “fotes” to the disguised men, small round buns, pierced in the center and strung on a string.
Every May 1st, the inhabitants of the village of Kalogiroi, in every way they could during the old days, went up to the Livadia of Kalogiroi to “catch” May. Livadia was, and still remains, one of the best parts of the village’s forest, as it is an area full of fir trees and a vast, green meadow. The village was literally emptied of its inhabitants as they spent the day in the Meadows, cooking and having fun in a great feast.
In Neraidochori, there is a custom on the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple (21 November) which is called Pusporitsa – an evolution of the word polysporitsa (many seeds). Villagers boil different types of grains in a kettle, adding a handful of each type (wheat, barley, bran, beans, broad beans, chickpeas, lentils) and then eat them. The custom symbolizes that the fields, with the help of the Virgin Mary, will bear good fruits in the future.
Sarakatsani Annual Meeting
In Pertouli, the Panhellenic Sarakatsani Association organizes annually, on the last Sunday of June, the Sarakatsani Annual Meeting, which takes place in the Pertouliotika Livadia. The area has been chosen because of its geographical location, and its natural beauty, but also because of its history since it has been proven that this is where most of the Sarakatsani tseligats were gathered. More than 20,000 Sarakatsans from all over the Balkans have been gathering in Pertuli since 1980, in an effort to preserve their tradition and relationships.
In the context of the commemoration, Sarakatsani stables and “konakia” are set up under the fir trees, thus creating the right setting for the revival of Sarakatsani customs. Thousands of visitors watch reenactments of the nomadic life of the Sarakatsani, traditional dances, and sports, narratives of incidents from their history and daily life, as well as the dance of the elders, which is dragged by the eldest among them.