Nameday Celebration

Agios Nikolaos
Today is a nameday celebration in honor of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). A number of Greek people in town, as well as the main church in Magganitis, are named after the patron saint.

Both men and women may be named after patron Saint Nikolaos. For instance, we know multiple men named “Nikos,” and several women called “Nikki.”

Inside Agios Nikolaos
Anyone named after the patron Saint Nikolaos, or anyone who has anyone in their family named after the patron saint, attends the celebration at Agios Nikolaos this morning.

Like the majority of churches in Ikaria, Agios Nikolaos follows the Greek Orthodox tradition. The Greek Orthodox Church has been an integral part of maintaining identity and culture in Greece, especially while Greeks lived under Ottoman control for hundreds of years. Most important holidays are connected with the Church.

Nikolaos Icons
Icons depicting Saint Nikolaos.

During the two hour church service, people filter in when they are able. The ritual of entering the church involves crossing oneself, and kissing one or more of these icons.

It is also customary to take beeswax candles to light, as a prayer either for oneself or a loved one in need. Candles are an important symbol of faith in the Church, and are displayed prominently.

The first time I attended a church service here, I did not realize that there was a “men’s” side, and a “women’s” side, and I went to stand in the first spot I saw, which happened to be on the “men’s” side. Immediately, a lady from across the aisle smiled and motioned to me to come sit down next to her. I thought she was just happy to see me! It was only later that I realized I was just getting put in the “proper spot.”

Artos Bread
Church-goers bring many large round bread loaves called “Artos,” or sacramental bread, which are cut up into large chunks after the ceremony and distributed amongst the townsfolk.

The bread loaves are all slightly different, but they are all made with wheat and are slightly sweet, often containing seeds such as fennel or sesame.

Cutting Artos bread
Cutting the sacramental bread.
Leaving Agios Nikolaos
Outside the church after the ceremony, people stop to wish each other “Chronia Pola,” or ‘Many Years!”

There would normally be live music performed for a nameday celebration like this. However, due to the recent death of a musician from Magganitis, a period of respect is observed in which other musicians refrain from playing during events.

Cafe Crowd
Everyone, including the priest, packs into the cafe across the street.

Going to the cafe to drink, eat and talk after church service helps bind everyone in the village together socially.

Panagiotis fries up some “loukoumades” for everyone. “Loukoumades” are the Greek version of doughnuts, made by frying little balls of dough, drenching them in honey, and sprinkling cinnamon on top.


After the nameday celebration at Agios Nikolaos, people continue celebrating for the rest of the day in their homes. Little parties happen all over Magganitis, and people may go from one house to another – to drink, eat, and enjoy good company for hours on end.

Magganitis at dusk

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