THE SLOW EROSION OF TRADITION
I personally believe that many Northern Europeans who immigrate
to Greece, particularly the English, do so not for the sun but
to bask in the warmth of a cohesive society that is seeped in
traditions and celebrations that is proud of its history and
wears its identity with pride.
My childhood in England was unquestionably traditional, a place
where we built dens in our garden and played hide and seek until
it got dark, where we would dance around the May pole at school
and decorate harvest festival baskets which we would distribute
to the needy. Carnival time was a wonderful opportunity to dress
up and enter one of the many local competitions and the
procession through town would last up to an hour; there were so
many floats and the paths would be heaving with locals aching to
get a glimpse of the colourful lorries. On carnival evening,
we’d traipse through muddy fields in Wellington boots towards
the sweet sticky smell of the funfair.
Sunday school would stretch too slowly into Sunday lunch time,
(always a roast) and always around the table. We would then wait
for the arrival of our grandfather, who smelt of bread and
nicotine but he would always clutch a white paper bag containing
eitherRowntrees fruit pastills,fruitgums or Cadburys chocolate
and we would savour these as we savoured the security of knowing
that the adults at whose feet we were sat, truly cared about us.
Ask an Englishman over 40 today what it is to be English and he
will struggle for a contemporary definition but he will wax
lyrical about the English person he was as a child; for sadly,
the English identity appears to have eroded along with the
disappearance of our red telephone boxes and the obsession with
political correctness. What our politicians should have done was
to hinge on our history and turn memorable events such as
Remembrance Day into big celebration days, where children could
march through the streets clutching their Union Jacks. I don’t
approve of nationalism but there is nothing wrong with
So what has this to do with Greece?
Those who are familiar with Greece, will be aware of the 2
national days celebrating, historical events which are on March
25th and 28th October.
These days are national holidays during which time,
schoolchildren and college students march in a parade, carrying
their national flag, the honour of which is bestowed on the best
students who have earned the privilege.
This March, I had to insist our daughter marched in the parade,
the justification being that she is half Greek and her grandma
had suffered terribly during times of occupation. She therefore
owed history this debt of acknowledgement. “But most of my
friends are staying at home”, she moaned. I then explained that
if everyone took this attitude, the parade would cease to exist,
and after all, her teachers were making the effort….So in
Kipseli square, approximately forty percent of the Kipseli
schoolchildren congregated to march and although the number was
smaller than the previous time, the children looked splendid.
What usually happens after the parade in Kipseli is the children
all walk together to the bus-stop to take the bus down to Aegina
town where the more serious parade takes place; where
individuals, dressed up in their good clothing will have jostled
for prime seats at the periphery of the numerous cafeterias so
that they can cheer on the children and imbibe their bitter,
muddy coffee in tandem with the ritual sucking of cigarette
This March however, the Kipseli children didn’t reach the town
of Aegina because the bus didn’t arrive and the teacher who was
supposed to have overseen this was nowhere to be seen! The flag
bearer cried big, disappointed tears, her moment of glory never
to be realised; her mother’s proud smile and expensive clothing
bought for the occasion rendered redundant and a wave of
indignant fury swept from the children as they protested they’d
made the effort which seemed trivialised by the lack of concern
of their teachers.
concerned me most about this though was it had never happened
before and with each parade, there are fewer and fewer children.
chat to my many Greek friends about their parades and their
traditions, sometimes they laugh and dismiss the events as un-necessary
time wastage. I usually hotly oppose their views and remind them
they are lucky to be part of a society where people are
connected, enmeshed in the fabric of society, that they must
uphold these values and not lose them. To return to England, our
carnival processions are now a pathetic shadow of what they
used to be and last only 5 minutes and my old primary school
doesn’t even have a May pole; I just hope that this malaise
doesn’t eventually affect Greece.
parents always say ‘We are going to have a Tesco Easter in
England and then we are going to Greece to celebrate a true
that they will always be able to say this!!