There is a continuous effort to keep up those traditional customs of the island that have been part of its history throughout the years. The traditions of Spetses also come from the mainland due to the closeness of the Peloponnese and the settling of its people on the island.
The traditional wedding on Spetses
The traditional wedding on Spetses demands that the couple go to the church together - although nowadays a male member of the family of the groom may accompany her - and walk home afterwards with friends and relatives, led by musicians playing the lute and violin.
Religious festivals are celebrated throughout the year in the many chapels of the island. The vespers, the divine service and the blessing of the Holy bread take place followed by the traditional 'treats'. During the month of July numerous people gather at the festivals of St. Marina, Panagia (VirginMary), Kapsodematousa, St. Markella, St. Paraskevi, Prophet Elias, and during September at the festivals of Panagia of Daskalakis and of St.Mamandos, where the children leave small candles to float on the sea after vespers. In spring, there are the festivals at the two 'Panagies of Elona' (churches of the Virgin Mary) and the festival of St. George, which takes place at Zogeria, where folk musicians entertain against a backdrop of sea and nature.
At Carnival time, according to custom, people in fancy dress visit houses in the local neighbourhood. On the last Sunday of the carnival period, there is a big feast at the Clock Square, where hundreds of locals and vistors gather. This festival is organised by the Municipality of Spetses. The high spot of the feast is the burning of the King of the Carnival in the centre of the square, which is followed by fireworks. The next day, Shrove Monday,tradition continues with the flying of kites and local feasts in the neighbourhoods of Sourbouti, Kounoupitsa and Kastelli.
The local guilds of working people celebrate the day of their patron saint as a family feast .The most famous of these are the hunters' feast at Panagia Daskalaki, the drivers' feast on St. Christopher's day, the fishermen and sailors' feast on St. Apostles and the feast of the tradesmen on the Three Spetsiots saints day.
On Spetses, like on all the other Greek islands, Easter, apart from its deeply religious character, also includes the phantasmagoric spectacle of fireworks shining across the sky. On the night of Christ's resurrection, the fishermen keep an old custom and burn a small boat in the courtyard of the church of Analypsi (Ascension of Christ). On Easter Sunday afternoon at Kounoupitsa Square,the burning of an effigy of Judas takes place, a very old custom which has recently been revived by the Spetsiot Panayioti Mathios.
Festivals and at family feasts
The people of Spetses have always loved singing and dancing and there are many songs originating from Spetses that are heard in festivals and at family feasts. There are also songs brought here by sailors that Spetsiots have paraphrased according to their traditions. The Spetsiot dances 'syrtos' and 'hasapikos' are among the favourites.
The traditional local costume
The traditional local costume is also seen on all the islands of the Aegean as well as on the Peloponnesian coast at Ermionida, with slight differences. The men's costume is the classic style and consists of knickerbockers (traditional trousers), a shirt, a waistcoat and a belt. The women's costume consists of a white silk blouse with a long skirt and a belt, as well as the characteristic embroidered headscarf.
Among the many kinds of popular art that were developed on Spetses are, the renowned Spetsiot pebble mosaics which decorate the narrow streets and squares (in the past they have also decorated Omonia Square in Athens), traditional wooden ship-building at the shipyards, the weaving of rugs and textiles from family looms, as well as wood carving.
The most famous of all events on the island, with both religious and national significance, and attracting thousands of visitors, is the 'Armata'. The highlight of this festival takes place on the second Saturday of September and is a re-enactment of the naval battle of 8th September 1822. This is an authentic folk event, with the participation of hundreds of locals, framed by a programme of special cultural events which take place during the week prior to the re-enactment. The Battle of Spetses is one of the greatest events of the War of Independence. After the defeat of Dramalis by Kolokotronis at Dervenakia, the war in the Peloponnese was hopeless for the Ottomans. Only a few forts put up resistance, forts such as the renowned Palamidi at Nafplion. This stronghold was put under seige by Ypsilantis from the land and by Bouboulina from the sea. The Ottoman fleet, in a final effort to provide Nafplion with arms and ammunition, sailed toward the Argolic Gulf with a plan to attack first Spetses and then Hydra, and so, on 8th September 1822, the Ottoman fleet sailed into Spetsiot waters. The island's captains, with help from the captains of Hydra and Psara, fought heroically and managed to put the Ottoman fleet to flight after spreading panic by setting fire to the Turkish flagship.
Significant men of letters and of art, Greek and foreign, loved, lived and were inspired on Spetses, contributing to the cultural prosperity of the island. Between the First and Second World Wars, one particular character, despite difficulties, gave, with his works, a strong base for the subsequent development of the island.
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