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Stuff on a Cretan wedding and circle dancing

Just in case you hadn’t heard, young Greeks seem to be migrating abroad en masse. I moved over a decade ago and I used to be one of the very few who had to take an international flight to be at a special occassion but lately more and more of us at those events come from abroad.

This time we took a trip for a wedding taking place in Ierapetra, Crete (the city of never ending summer as my friend Z. calls it). 

I admire couples who manage to organise a wedding while living abroad and that’s exactly what E. and A. did. Don’t discount the task. Greek weddings regularly feature between 400 and 1000 guests so the administrative burden of the undertaking is massive. E. and A. managed it like the rock stars that they are and we had an amazing time.

All the lights are on. #church #orthodox #AGreekWedding #crete #greece

A photo posted by Sofia Gk (@sofiagk) on

A lot of us converged on this beautiful town in Crete from multiple cities and from multiple countries. Where in the past our conversations would have been about the Greek cities we live in, they were now all about cities abroad, studying in universities there, finding work, living a different life, dealing with Brexit (which is, let’s face it, a bit of a conversation starter when you say you live in Britain). Alternatively they were all about living in Greece and comparing that to living abroad.

Despite our international lives – or perhaps because of them – we loved the traditional aspects of the wedding. Regional traditions, folk dances, local food. The legendary hospitality of the Cretans was evident in everything. Even the waitress at the cafe on the central square, the hairdresser, the travel agent. Even the townspeople not invited but waving to our cars as we were escorting the groom’s car to the church honking our horns. There’s something magical about a big wedding happening in a relatively small place.

There are several things I have in my mind about this trip and about this wedding. A lot of them are impossible to write about – there is something about human moments that as I grow older make me reluctant to put them out there in the public domain.

But there is something that I can note here. Irrespective of our age, our life, our tastes, the vast majority of the guests got up and danced to Greek folk music – as we usually do. The band at the wedding party (the amazing Oktava from Chania), started off the dancing by announcing the “Bride’s Syrtos”. Syrtos being a Greek folk dance and this specifically being a Cretan version.

It is traditional for the bride and the groom to lead a dance each – apart from their first dance. But it’s the first time I had heard the phrase “bride’s syrtos” and I found it beautiful. There is something special about a dance that only the bride can lead.  How many women before E. danced to those steps with their families and friends behind them? And how beautiful, this symbolism of a new beginning, supported by people who love you.

This is how these precious days in Crete felt. As if we were constantly dancing in a circle, joining hands and sharing the same steps – letting the couple lead us. We were honoured to be part of this network of people, who travelled from all over to be there, to dance, to laugh, to clap, to remember and to make new memories. And despite our different cities, countries and experiences, we all shared a circle. Now don’t tell me that’s not special.

Ο συρτός της νύφης. #AGreekWedding #crete

A photo posted by Sofia Gk (@sofiagk) on

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