After the fun of Christmas on the mainland we settled down again for our last weeks in Kefalonia and our first adventure of 2022 was celebrating New Year and Epiphany.
New Year's Eve started pretty quietly, we were all tired from our Athens exploits and so we had a slow day at the villa and a walk around the village. We ate some party food treats, played games and watched a movie. Dexter was in bed by 9pm and although Kris, Jake and I did stay up until midnight to say an official "Happy New Year" we went to bed very soon afterwards.
We did send some video messages to friends and family though and Jake thought it was very funny that we celebrated 2 hours before them and so were in a whole different year! We decided it was cool to celebrate New Year from the future.
The next day was sunny and fairly warm so we decided to spend some time on the beach. We visited a cove called Paralia Atheras which was beautiful, crystal clear waters, very shallow at the edge so great for younger swimmers and nicely sheltered from the wind too. Apart from one person snorkelling a little way out and some dog walkers we had the place entirely to ourselves.
I couldn't resist a quick dip in the chilly sea water and was joined briefly by Jake who challenged me to a swimming contest that I promptly lost. Kris and Dexter, maybe wisely, decided to stay dry and spent time hunting for beach treasures and collecting shells and hagstones.
After our swim Jake and I sat in the sun drying off while we all enjoyed a picnic lunch we'd brought along, sandwiches, crisps and fruit - a traditional British picnic as we un-traditionally celebrated New Years Day on a beach.
It was a great way to start 2022.
However, the celebrations didn't stop there. In Greece their big festivity this time of year is Epiphany, The Festival of Light. It's celebrated on the 6th of January and on the 5th families will often come together on Epiphany Eve to eat food together, pray and attend church.
At Anchorage Villas we did things a little differently to mark the occasion. Our hosts, Lynn and Nigel, had been learning about the Italian Epiphany tradition of Befana, an old lady who delivers gifts to help celebrate the New Year, and so we decided that a feast in her honour would be fun.
We decided we'd have a bonfire with BBQ food and the boys and I helped Lynn create an effigy we could put on the fire. She was a sight to behold! Made from a cocktail dress and hooded jumper stuffed with old clothes and paper. Her head was an old pair of tights beautifully decorated with buttons and other material and she even had shoes on! The boys started with grand plans and without guidance our effigy would have been at least 12 foot high! We were all very pleased with our creation and we decided the thing we'd all like to forget about 2021 was Covid and so thats what our effigy was named. (I must admit that I was rather scared knowing she was outside our apartment for the evening as we waited for the fire the next day).
Epiphany Eve was a wonderful evening full of laughter, games, sharing food and plenty of stories. Lynn and Nigel have travelled a lot and it was great to hear some of their adventures, especially about Egypt, we shall think of them lots on the next part of our journey.
We finished the night with some of the best mulled wine I've ever tasted and discovered that Befana had even delivered gifts for Lynn and I in the shape of some incredible earrings made in her likeness! I shall smile every time I wear them.
The next day the boys and I headed into the capital, Argostoli, to watch some more traditional Epiphany celebrations. As we made our way to the harbour, the streets were full of people dressed in their best clothes chatting and smiling while prayers and singing drifted out of the many churches. I don't think I've ever heard as many church bells as I did that day.
We had hoped to see the Agioasmos ceremony (sanctification of the sea) and luckily found the right spot at the right time.
The local children (and some very keen adults) stand on the De Bosset Bridge over the lagoon in the town and as the priest blesses the waters and throws a cross out into the sea the children all dive in and try to be the first to reach the cross.
They all did so well on a fairly nippy day and although we didn't understand the words of the blessing it was great to feel how joyous, and hopeful the locals were and watch the sense of community as they congratulated the winner. They even threw the cross again to give a smaller child a second try to much applause when they succeeded.
Over the few days of new year we celebrated with a real mix of cultures and traditions and it felt really special. Some of these things we'll definitely take with us into years ahead, although, as I'm sure you can agree, the Covid effigy is going to take some beating ;-)