Karpathos Folklore & Tradition

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Karpathos is a small island and  it is exceptional because of its rich tradition which has roots from ancient years and mainly  because of the local people's devotion to preserving their customs and traditions and living according to these values even today.

This devotion is due to its geographical position (far away and isolated from the greek mainland) and to the genuine greek spirit of the Karpathian people. Many Greeks and foreigners have studied about Karpathos and a great deal of folklore studies have been published in books, newspapers and magazines. Moreover, there is a great deal of material that has not been published yet by researchers of tradition.

Remarkable is the devotion of Karpathian people - not only the ones living in Karpathos, but all Karpathian who live abroad - to their traditions and customs.

Folk songs and rhymes composed and sang at the same time ("mantinades"), proverbs, riddles, tales, myths, games, wishes, curses, oaths are part of the everyday life of people - younger and elder, men and women -  since ancient times.

A special place in the hearts of Karpathian people has the traditional karpathian  ("kathisto glenti").
The men sit around a table with the music players of the traditional instruments, drinking wine and composing and singing songs.
They are given the opportunity to express their feelings - joy or pain depending on the occasion. The "lyra", "laouto", "tsambouna" and the "violi" are the traditional karpathian musical instruments and are inseparable part of a karpathian festivity.

All can be attended to  a karpathian "glenti" in Orthodox celebrationsmand in social events especially weddings, baptisms,  and name days.   After singing in the karpathian "glenti" and having expressed their feelings and thoughts and at the peak of cheerfulness the people feel the need to dance the traditional karpathian dances.

Some of these dances are: "Siganos", "Gonatistos", "Pano Choros", "Sousta", "Foumistos"(only in weddings), "Zervos", "Kefallonitika", "Antipatitis","Arkistis".

The first five dances are the traditional dances which are more commonly danced by people in Karpathos during their celebrations.

Many customs have their roots in Ancient times and are preserved till nowadays unchanged and the people feel proud taking part in this way of life.

Customs and Traditions

Many organisations and the Cultural Centers of Karpathos organise local cultural events (reviving of old customs, wine festivals in  (Volada and Othos,) dance festivals, theatre plays,concerts and many others).

The Karpathian House

The colourful hand-made embroidery and knitting consist the traditional decoration of the karpathian house, especially the part of the house which is called "soufas" or “sofas”.
In the karpathian house - which consists itself a small folklore museum with its embroidery, woodcarvings, the picture frames on the walls or shelves of parents, grandparents and members of family -occur all the family events, as well as rich dinners to "guests", to whom many karpathian dishes, drinks and sweets are offered.
Keeping the Karpathian house and preserving this Karpathian wealth is totally the housewife's responsibility.

Traditional Professions - Hand craft

There is a number of people who follow with devotion traditional professions such as wood carvers, basket makers, weavers, instrument makers et al. and express in a special way the traditional karpathian art.

The visitor can find wood carvers who create the "soufas", picture frames, furniture, trunks, shoemakers who create handmade shoes ("stivania"(boots made from leather), slippers) which fortunately are still preserved (mostly) in Olympos. Also, there are basket makers, weavers and others.

Another kind of folk art which is preserved is potting and designing plates and jugs with special traditional patterns.
These are used to decorate the shelves of the karpathian house.
What makes the island special is the traditional dress (everyday dress and dress for celebrations) of women in Olympos called "kavai" and "sakofoustano". One can find remains of the traditional women's dress in elder women in most villages of Karpathos, especially in Mesochori and Spoa. Remainders of men's shoes are the "stivania" which are worn by farmers and are made in Olympos.

What is remarkable in Karpathos and cannot be found so much in other places in Greece is the making of the karpathian musical instruments.

There is a great number of people of all ages in all the villages of Karpathos who carve the "lyra", the "laouto", the "violi" and make the "tsambouna" and most of them play these instruments.

The Karpathian Cuisine

The sardine - the well-known  called "menoula" which is put in salt - the small black olives, the karpathian goat cheese called "manouli", the bread, "kouloures" and karpathian wine are some of the dishes that are served in most karpathian houses when having guests at the house.

As main dishes are offered "makarounes" (homemade pasta), the fried or baked fish called "skaros" or the traditional dish of weddings called “stifado”. After the meal the sweet which is offered to people is the well-known karpathian "baklavas".

Many kinds of pies (with onions, with herbs, with raisins called "zibilia"), the "psilokouloura" are some of the everyday "goodies" karpathian women make and offer to their family and guests. It is well-known that karpathian people love their traditional music and dances and this is why there are over 70 types of songs.

Others believe the karpathian rhythms are over 100. It seems that the people of Karpathos have inherited from Apollo, the God of the Sun and Music who was one of the protector gods of the island, this passion for music.