Ανάβουνε φωτιές στις γειτονιές ~ του Άη Γιάννη, αχ πόσα ξέρεις και μού λες
Light fires on the streets ~ Oh Saint John, how many things you let me know
On the 24th of June Saint John the Prodromos was born, Jesus Christ’s profit, a very loved Saint in Greece, who is believed to bring good luck. On such an important day, Greeks wanted to take a peek into future, this is how the tradition of the Klidonas (κλήδονας) was born.
The Tradition of the Klidonas
The custom of the klidonas is actually an old divination process, according to which the identity of their future spouse is revealed to unmarried girls. Unfortunately this is a very old tradition, merely performed in our days, but always remembered.
On the eve of St. John, Single women were required to gather together, walk to a nearby well and fill up their pitchers with water and then pour the it in a big, earthen container. The tradition demands that they remain silent all over the way from the well until they pour the water in the container, this is why the water they carry is called “silent water”. The young men would try to make them talk by teasing them on their way, but they must not talk. If they do, the clairvoyance of the klidonas is cancelled. When back home, the women all poured the water in a large container, where each one also put a personal object, called the rizikari, often valuable like jewellery. After this, the container was covered tightly with a red garment and left for the rest of the night outside, under the stars. The young ladies would then return to their homes and it is believed that on this night they would dream of their future husbands.
Saint John’s Fires
On the 24th of June, Saint John’s day, the single women gather again to open up the klidonas. This time every one of the village can come, and the klidonas is opened with lots of singing and laughing. The ritual is performed by an older woman who collects the items from inside the klidonas that predict each girl’s fortune. Every time, before seeing the item, she makes up some verse, a small poem about the item she holds, that predicts the future of the girl the itme belongs to. The poems said during the opening of the klidonas are built to tease the girls, sometimes kinky and always funny. The whole procedure ends the sunset when every single girl drinks a sip of the “silent water” and heads home. The first man’s name she will hear that night is the name of her future husband.
After the end of the klidonas the Greeks light up fires in every neighbourhood, where the 1st May wreaths are burnt. Up until today this custom is held and what is more, each neighbourhood competes on showcasing the best and largest fire. The Saint John’s fire purifies and removes evil and sets with her flame a new beginning, that is why men and women jump over the fire to ward off evil forces. Some people hold a stone, and while jumping over the fire they throw it back over their head saying “let all evil go” «ας φύγουν όλα τα κακά» First of course jump the more brave men and when the flame settles the rest follow. They jump the fire three times, (since this number is symbolic and directly connected to Greek tradition and the Orthodox religion) to cast away all evil. On the verge of predicting the future, it is said that the young couple who will cross the fire on opposite direction at the same time, will get married.
This day in modern Greece is a party. People gathering in neighbourhoods, lighting and jumping fires, singing, and teasing each other. Hoping for evil to be cast away by Saint John and celebrating the beginning of summer.
Would you be brave enough to jump over Saint John’s fire?
Related posts you might like:
- Kira Sarakosti – an Old Greek Easter Tradition
- The Greek Custom of Protomagia ~ The May Flower Wreath
- The Greek Tradition of the “Clean Monday”
Ioanna Aggelidaki is the Social Media Manager and Contributor of the Greek Weddings and Traditions Blog.
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