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The Chiots’ strong connection to the sea and the seafaring is mirrored to the island’s traditions. During the Christmas holiday the children visit the houses of their neighbourhood singing Christmas and New Year’s Carols carrying a miniature boat that they have made themselves.
Miniature boats were the traditional Christmas decoration of Chiots’ houses. Usually the boys made a model warship. This tradition dates back to the liberation of the island from the Ottoman occupation, as a way of commemorating the arrival of the Greek fleet on the island.
As the years passed, boys from the parishes of the town and from Vrontados started to work in groups in order to make model ships big and accurate copies of the real warships. They often worked over a long time in order to perfect their model. The results of their work were so impressive that created a kind of competition between the groups and parishes. Every group would walk to the town’s central square in New Year’s Eve and present their model ship to the passers by singing carols and "penemata" on the spot created lines and songs.
This custom was in decline during the 60s, prompting the Chios Walking Club to adopt it. It evolved into a customary competition in 1976. Ever since, every New Year’s Eve groups of children and youths present the model ship they have created during the year singing carols and "penemata".
Source: Past and present of Chios "New Year’s model ships", Stella Tsiropina, literature teacher
Vrontados lies to the north of Chios town. It is a small town and the majority of its population work as captains and mariners. The rocket war dates back to the ottoman times and it takes place on Good Saturday’s Eve, before Easter. Groups of youths from the two of Vrontados largest parishes, Panagia Erithiani and Agios Markos, compete in a symbolic fire exchange. Initially, they used to fire small canons. As the years passed, the participants took to improvising their own rockets and fireworks. This is a technique that needs very careful preparation and is passed down from fathers to sons. The groups start the preparation of the rockets immediately after the Easter celebration in order to be ready for next year. In the last couple of years thousands of firework rockets are made and fired, creating a spectacular view the night before Easter.
This is a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, when pirate attacks to the islands were very often.
It is said that during the Carnival time, while all the villagers were celebrating, the watchtower guards sent a signal that pirates were approaching the coast. The men of the village immediately went there and set up an ambush. The pirates were defeated and the villagers took their prisoners back to the village were they showed them off (Mostra comes from the Italian mostrare) and celebrated.
In commemoration of this battle and victory against the pirates, a representation of the battle takes place every year, even during the occupation.
Nowadays, starting from Friday, before the last Sunday of the Carnival, the people of Thimiana dress up and set up the Mostra that is, the handmade carnival chariots performing satirical numbers and wearing handmade masks (moutsounaries).
At the same night they dance the "talimi" a kind of dance representing the warriors movements during the battle against the pirates. There are two groups of dancers representing the villagers and the pirates. They dance in pairs, holding high large swords. In the end they dance the Detos dance, holding each other by the arms.
On Sunday the carnival parade takes place, followed by dancing.
Another important happening is that of Aga, which takes place at Olympi and Mesta on Ash Monday. It is a parody of the spring tour the Aga of Mastichi used to make around Mastichochoria. The person that plays the Aga is asked to “judge” the most well known of the visitors and make them pay a fine to the association organizing the happening. The celebration involves snacks and lots of "souma", a spirit the locals make from figs, in remembrance of the obligation they had to offer hospitality to the Ottoman tax-collectors and officials.
The "Agas" event is a parody of the way the Ottoman judges used to behave, punishing the Chiots with every opportunity they had. As it takes place on Monday after the Carnival, a lot of carnivalesque elements have been incorporated. The Aga is played by a villager who enters the village with his escort. The court sessions start and the Aga imposes fines to everyone who happens to be dragged in his court. Humour and teasing each other is part of the procedure, as no one knows whether it will be their turn to answer to the Agas next.
The dance of Diplos revives every year in Volissos, the largest village of the north part of the island. In the old days, on the last Sunday of the Carnival, at the peak of the celebrations, the people would dance this dance, creating human double chains, as they held hands. They would start from every neighbourhood of the village and dance their way to the central square, creating thus a very long chain. At the same time, the person leading the dance would sing and the others would follow.
The traditional folk festivals are integral to the Chios music tradition. Local music players perform traditional songs and folk dances. Chios traditional music has been affected by Asia Minor music and traditions, especially after the refugees’ arrival in 1922.
In a lot of villages these festivals last for two or even three nights in a row. They are normally held in celebration of the patron saint of the village. The folk festival involves a lot of dancing. The most common traditional dances are syrtos, karsilama, sousta, and aptalikos.