Today is the name day of Saint Loucas, and Loucas is the patron saint of Kouklia village (where the Littles go to school). Thus, all weekend and tomorrow, a Panagiri, or saint’s festival is happening in Kouklia. And of course we had to go: tradition must be observed.
Panagiria are great people magnets – I haven’t seen such crowds in Kouklia’s lanes for a long time. They’re mostly older folk from, the hill villages or children in search of cheap toys (that’s why ours clamour to go: they buy their guns there. I won’t buy guns, but I don’t forbid them, so Zenon and Leo save their pennies and head for the toy stalls with everyone else’s Littles…), but for three days and nights, the village hums.
I used to hate seeing the bags of goldfish and rows of caged songbirds that were prizes in cheap games, but those seem to have disappeared (EU directives on animal cruelty, perhaps?), but I enjoy panagiria for their unbridled local colour and the endless juxtaposition of anomalies.
Where else would you see an elderly woman trying on a lacysilk slip over her housedress, her friends encouraging her, pulling it down, patting it, smoothing it, “Maria mou, it looks lovely on you…”? Or housewives picking up the lid of a handmade glazed clay cooking pot (the kind that Best Beloved uses to make his delicious rabbit casserole) “Hmm, forty Euros. I wonder if it’s worth it. Can it go in the oven?” (“Can it go in the oven?” the seller expostulates. “It’s the best thing you’ll ever find to cook in?”)Fruit,vegetables, honey and cheeses from local farms and orchards; sheets, towels, and bedspreads from China; traditional local twig brooms, sieves, and mouse traps; and Cypriot goodies like lokoumades – deep fried donut balls sprinkled with flower syrup – and soujouko – nuts on a string dipped over and over into grape must; and a rash of cheap toys: the panagiri has everything, and we returned home with bulging paper bags and empty pockets.