New Year’s Eve Model Ships

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The long maritime tradition of Chios finds an expression in New Year’s Model Ships event. 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, the boys would make a model warship. Ever since, during Christmas holiday the children visit the houses of their neighbourhood singing Christmas and New Year’s Carols and carrying a miniature boat that they have made themselves. Miniature boats used to be the traditional Christmas decoration of Chiots’ houses.

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 fading during the 60s, prompting the Chios Walking Club to adopt it and evolved into a customary competition in the late 70s. Ever since, every year groups of children and youths are working for months in order to construct their model ship trying to make it look as realistic as possible.

In the New Year’s Eve the groups become the crew of their ships, they decide for their captain and they walk them from their neighbourhoods to the central square of Chios where they present them to the public. The Central Square of Chios, festively decorated and packed with people, becomes a port for the ships and every crew goes on stage, they present themselves and sing local carols and “penemata”, traditional carols written by themselves full of wishes for the New Year and satirical comments for the old one. An appointed committee decides the winner and along with their winning ship they walk again in the neighbourhoods of Chios singing and celebrating.

Source: Past and present of Chios "New Year’s model ships", Stella Tsiropina

*This year the traditional New Year’s Eve Model Ships Event will be held in Chios Central square on New Year’s Eve (31/12/2014).

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