St. Nicholas, Sailors and Sweets

Earlier this week,  as I was walking along the ‘paralia’ in the Porto Limani (old port):

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I approached the  ‘St. Nicholas’, one of the larger tourist boats moored alongside, to find an excited crowd had gathered.  It’s owner, Mr Kyriakos (the father of the Mayor) along with its crew, family and friends were awaiting the arrival of the local priest. When he eventually arrived, I was invited to join them all on board for a charming, long-held tradition: the annual ‘Blessing of the Boat’ .

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Unlike our St Nick or ‘Santa’, St Nicholas (the boat’s namesake) is, in Greece, the Patron Saint of Sailors and the Sea.

At the start of each new season, the Saint is called upon, in a short service of devotion, to extend his protection and afford prosperity to the vessel and all who take to the sea in her; Captain,  crew and tourist alike, in the months ahead.

Similar events been taking place in all the boats moored alongside the port this week.

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The short ceremony, composed of chanting, prayer  and much kissing of icons, all administered by the local priest in a cloud of burning incense,  is followed by the handing out of refreshments including delicious sweets, symbolizing  (hopefully) prosperous times ahead. Then, as is typical following all such religious rites, a party ensues – always great fun –  and this one was no exception!

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I’ve come to know the crew of the St. Nicholas well as this is the boat I take my ‘Painting Skiathos’ guests on when we make our day-trip excusion across to the neighbouring Sporades islands of to Skopelos and Alonnissos/ It is  always the highlight of our painting week. Relaxed and helpful ( informing us in plenty of time to have our cameras ready when the dophins appear as we enter the protected waters of the Wildlife Marine Park around Alonnissos, they are all wonderfully generous and entertaining hosts. As ex-Merchant Navy sailors all, they keep us endlessly amused with their cheerful camaraderie and fascinating tales of the sea.

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I wish them all a happy, safe and successful summer.