During our various travels throughout Greece, we have often seen interesting sheepfolds, most of the time hidden along small dirt roads. This one was in the Delphi-Arahova area, ie on the slopes of Mount Diakoura/Parnassos. It is unusually large with several long and very low buildings, built in stones and covered with heavy Roman tiles.
With all the processions and celebrations, Easters in Arahova are a great time to visit for a taste of the native culture. It is a treat for visitors to watch the native people in their national costumes as well as taste the traditional cuisine and wine.
The preparations for the Easter, in Arachova, start on Shrove Monday. The locals must see about all the aspects of a traditional Easter feast, including the lamb, the spit, their Easter clothes, the fustanella, the woollen clothes of Saint George, the eggs and the confectionery.
Tradition requires that lambs be roasted on the spit and feasting be enjoyed twice. So, before dawn on Easter Sunday, the older of Arachova invite all the inhabitants to start the preparations for the pit cooking. They gather vine-branches, light the fire and poke it. Preventing the wood from being reduced to ashes is a task that needs skill and experience.
The location of Mavra Litharia offers a surprising view of Arachova at the time of pit cooking. You actually have the impression that this small country town is burning, as there are pits in every neighbourhood! More than 10 lambs are cooked over each pit! When the fire is ready, all people sit around the pit and sing the hymn “Christ is risen”. The eating and drinking spree culminates with dancing and singing. The women of Arachova treat their compatriots and mainly passers-by to lamb’s fry, local wine and red eggs. This happens as many times as the number of lambs in the pit, namely 10-30. Cooking lasts for about four hours and roasting time depends on the weight of the lamb. Nobody leaves the cooking ground, unless the older of Arachova – and the most expert on pit cooking – say that everything is over and the hymn “Christ is risen” is sung. They wish each other “Many Happy Returns of Easter”. The event always culminates with fire shots. The traditional Easter menu of Arachova comprises lamb, eggs, yogurt, the “feta” and “formaela” cheese varieties, red wine and, of course, lettuce salads with fresh garlic.
The inhabitants of Arachova believe in Saint George. Their faith has been forged through historic ordeals and is, still today, deeply expressed through a three-day feast organised in honour of this saint in April. It is called “Panigyraki” (the little fete). It owes its name to the “Panigyraki” dance, which is exclusively typical of Arachova.
The worship of Saint-George in Arachova is associated with many legends, traditions, songs and the history of the region. During the fete, many of the locals wearing traditional costumes gather at the courtyard of the Holy Church of Saint George. The old dance the “Panigyraki” traditional dance to the accompaniment of the bagpipes and the snare drums. Then, the young and the old inhabitants of Arachova participate in an uphill race towards the headquarters of Mustafa Bey. The winner’s prize is a living lamb.
Afterwards, the lamb is barbecued at the courtyard of the church of Saint George where some sports take place. Characteristic delicious tidbits of Arachova are generously offered to tourists and the locals.