An Irish Welcome

Céad Míle Fáilte friend and rover ...
Wherever you come from and whosoever you may be.
That's an Irish greeting and it means

you are welcome
a thousand times over.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kalanta - Byzantine Carols

(translated in English as carols but without exactly having the same meaning)
are songs with a religious character, and not only ...

They are told mainly by children on specific days of the year, from door to door and are always accompanied with offerings given by the head of a household to those that sing them.

The kalanta were kept alive and functioning in the Greek countryside and the peripheries of Hellenism until the 50s. In Cyprus, they followed almost a parallel line. However, it seems that the historical differentiation that Cyprus had followed, as opposed to other parts of the Greek World, had a negative impact on the survival of the island's Kalanta. We come to this conclusion by comparing the volume of material gathered about traditional Kalanta in other areas of Hellenism and in Cyprus.

During British Rule many traditional Kalanta of Cyprus were lost because of the low cultural self-esteem of the Cypriot people. During this time the Cypriots accepted the carols and other Western habits as a sign of progress and refinement. Unfortunately the people who were directly related to education and intellectual life (with some exceptions) did not show proper vigilance and the necessary resistance and adopted them. They passed them even in schools and that's how they were transferred on to the whole population. Thus a tradition of so many centuries, for a long time, had stopped functioning and was threatened with extinction.

On the other hand, Kalanta and religious songs for Easter were maintained until today, because the British did not have to offer something similar to the Cypriots. Fortunately Theodoulos Kallinikos, the Center for Scientific Research and other researchers of the folk music of Cyprus, just made it on time and recorded some traditional Kalanta of Cyprus told by older people who still remembered them.

With the technological revolution and the end of Second World War, and particularly due to the Mass Media, the gradual disregard for the Kalanta and their replacement with European carols started slowly, slowly, in the rest of Hellenism , resulting to their almost complete non existence by the '70s, something that had happened in Cyprus since the beginning of the last century. Along with these changes, the Christmas Spirit had also changed. The Greek People began to focus on superficiality and materialism and not on the internal preparations for the reception of the Holy Infant.

The celebrations start from November, so now when the time comes to actually be celebrating, we feel saturated and exhausted instead, serving essentially only consumerism and the merchants. Saint Basil has turned into Santa Claus and has ended up becoming the trademark of consumerism, sometimes verging on being ridiculous. Do we perceive that our children are happier, meeting daily for two months on many occasions the stupidly happy Santa Claus, sometimes in a supermarket, and other times in the streets, the squares and all the celebrations of the occasion of these days? No, it seems that they are not happier. Maybe they show that they are happy because of the rich gifts that they routinely receive. After all they are children. Basically however, they curse us because we have killed their imagination. We have taken way their joy to create with their rich imagination, each their own Saint Basil who comes and goes without being seen, since he is a Saint, but now everyone is sure of his presence, and that he leaves behind him all the goodies .

Fortunately, in recent years the baton has been received by younger researchers who were able to rekindle public interest in the traditional Kalanta, and make their reintegration into society possible through discography and concerts. With the involvement and awareness among teachers and others, the traditional Kalanta have began to slowly take their place among children and young people.

These are the Kalanta of Hellenism. Carols that are not limited to the surface of events, but contain messages for the cares and aspirations of the Greek People for centuries, containing theological messages and highlighting the traditional hospitality of the Greek People. Our carols have nothing to do with the sad phenomenon that we see today: the commercial symbol of Santa Claus and groups of children parroting western outlandish Christmas songs to earn some pocket money .

The Kalanta of Hellenism have roots going back many centuries. They survived and evolved naturally through very difficult circumstances. It is a chain where each generation puts its own link. And our generation has no right to break the chain. We are obligated to all those who passed and have put their own link, but we are more obligated to those who will come after us to allow them to continue. Let us be the generation that will not break the consistency of this chain. The Kalanta are for children and we must do everything to give them back to them. They are entitled to them.

Quoted from the article "The Twelve Days of Christmas Kalanta" by Maria Constanti. Sourced from NOCTOC


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