Both men and women may be named after patron Saint Nikolaos. For instance, we know multiple men named “Nikos,” and several women called “Nikki.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Going to the cafe to drink, eat and talk after church service helps bind everyone in the village together socially.
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.