Greece: Europe’s Newest Wine Country

by Bruce Schoenfeld
In Greece—between the Peloponnese, Macedonia, and the shores of Crete—T+L finds welcoming people, seductively simple food, and unforgettable Greek wines.

I might have fallen as hard for Plyto in a tasting room or over dinner at home, but the setting of our first encounter made it inevitable. I was on a sloop, sailing past the stone bastions of Spinalonga, the mysterious Venetian fortress off Crete’s northern coast. Friends I’d met just that afternoon had laid out meats and cheeses beside canapés that looked like miniature sculptures. The sea was shimmering, the sky a shade of El Greco blue.

Then came wine, from a grape variety I hadn’t encountered in two decades of seeking out the stuff around the world. Not only did Plyto have historic importance—found only on Crete, it was rescued from near extinction by a determined vine grower in the 1980’s—but its thirst-quenching, green-apple bite also made it the perfect beverage for a perfect moment.

But that’s Greece. You can visit more famous wineries elsewhere, and drink bottles far more renowned (and certainly more expensive) while eating elaborate meals in your fanciest clothes, yet I’ve found few places where exploring wine regions is more fun. Almost everywhere I went during my two-week journey, I found panoramic vistas, intriguing wines, and hospitality on an Olympian scale. (Driving in Macedonia, I stopped for gas, walked inside to pay, and found a family of five eating homemade lentil soup that they insisted I sample.) It isn’t all rustic tavernas and glorified pensiones, either. That sloop belonged to Elounda’s Blue Palace, a sumptuous, 251-room hotel on a hillside overlooking Spinalonga that ranks for sheer magnificence with anyplace I’ve ever stayed.

You’ve heard that wine tastes better where it’s produced, but that truism is especially valid in Greece. Greek food is famously simple: no elaborate postmodern constructions or complex sauces here. That leaves space for the wines to show themselves. And a palate needs steady exposure to get accustomed to the singular flavors of the country’s grapes. At home, compared with Pinot Noirs and Cabernets, Greek wines can seem rustic, unsubtle, even strange. But calibrate your taste to their sturdy architecture and you’ll start daydreaming about which to have with dinner.

America’s boom in fine Greek restaurants has helped lift the profile of Greek wine. “We’ve been making it for four thousand years, but still hardly anyone knows it,” lamented Yiannis Paraskevopoulos of Gaia Wines, which has wineries in the Peloponnese and on Santorini. But nobody needs to be sold on the charms of traveling in Greece. Though the financial crisis has cast a shroud over the tourism industry—and credit card machines, which create a record of a meal or hotel stay for tax purposes, seem to be “broken” at every turn—Greeks couldn’t treat a visitor badly if they tried. Here are three regions that combine delicious food and surpassing natural beauty with memorable hotels, and wines that might even make you fall in love.

The Peloponnese

Renaissance painters perceived Arcadia as a pastoral utopia. But as I gazed at jagged peaks and steep-walled valleys from the doorway of the tiny chapel in the Domaine Tselepos vineyard, or climbed a mountain road toward the Semeli winery’s eight-room inn past yellow and purple wildflowers and imposing rock escarpments, this fabled region of the Peloponnese had a distinctly primordial cast. Though much of modern civilization evolved here, it seemed only a thin veneer.

The Peloponnese, a peninsula of more than 8,000 square miles that fills the southern third of mainland Greece, has a rich history that dates to ancient times. Pan, the god of nature, is said to have sprung from the Arcadian forests. Sparta clashed with Athens on its plains, and Greek independence was fomented in its villages in the 1820’s. So it’s no accident that most of the grapes planted in the region are wholly and unabashedly Greek. “There are two approaches in Greece, international or indigenous varieties,” Paraskevopoulos said. “Here in the Peloponnese, we chose the second one. The hard one.”

In Mantineia, in the Arcadian hills near Tripoli, Moschofilero (mos-koe-fee-le-row) makes gorgeously transparent white wines. The best of them taste of the chilly summer nights that make the slow-ripening grapes among the last to be picked in all of Europe. Domaine Spiropoulos shares a plateau there with ancient ruins. An Athenian dentist started the winery on ancestral farmland in the 1980’s, working weekends to inculcate his son, Apostolos, in the culture of growing grapes and making wine.

At 39, Apostolos Spiropoulos now runs the estate. He throws dinner parties in the flower-filled courtyard, guides tours of the organically certified vineyards, and serves a bracing, unoaked version of Moschofilero that has the spine of a great Riesling. Taste it at the winery, then drink it by the bottle in the garden of the Taverna Klimataria Piteros, in Tripoli, alongside baked rooster, hand-cut pasta with a wisp of cinnamon, and bitter greens that coax sweet fruit out of the steel and flint.

In the valley below Mantineia sits Nemea, a red-grape region that extends almost to the edges of the port town of Nauplia (often spelled Nafplio or Nafplion). The dominant grape there, Agiorgitiko (ah-your-yee-ti-ko), can make a friendly but almost characterless wine that, in the wrong hands, is soft to the point of flabbiness. But the winemaker George Skouras does for that variety what The Simpsons did for cartoons, adding complexity without losing the spark that provides the fun. He started in 1986, applying lessons learned in enology school to the varieties of the region. Without realizing it, he’d joined a rising generation of winemakers around Greece who were attempting the same. “It became a movement,” he said. “Almost a revolution.”

Now Domaine Skouras makes some 700,000 bottles a year, while welcoming the waves of visitors who stop in at its showpiece facility, a 90-minute drive from Athens. What they find is a range of wines that use precision rather than power to seduce. “We’re a European winery, unabashedly,” Skouras said. What he meant became clear when he poured me his Grande Cuvée, made from Agiorgitiko grown in volcanic soil. I was startled to learn that this wine—so composed, so well bred—can be found stateside for less than $29 a bottle. Later, at one of the many restaurants that ring the Nauplia harbor, I drank a Skouras rosé that looked pink and fruity like bubble gum, but smelled like fresh-cut flowers.

Nauplia resembles a less tidy version of St.-Tropez, without the glitter. It has a latticework of cobblestoned streets, a few hotels with aspirations and many more pensiones with colored shutters and earnest breakfasts, and enough good eating for a week’s stay. I had my best meal there at Savouras, where customers are led to a vast wooden filing cabinet, the drawers of which are pulled open to reveal the day’s catch on ice. Prices are far from cheap—my grilled snapper weighed in at $55—but the only fresher fish you’ll find, I’m convinced, is on the boat that caught it.

Macedonia

Greek Macedonia isn’t a country; that’s the cumbersomely named (by UN decree) FYROM—former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia—that borders it to the north. But geopolitics aside, perhaps it ought to be: this oblong region has the diversity of nations ten times its size. Fishing villages and beaches speckle the coastline; spits of land protrude into the Aegean like spiny fingers. Hilltop villages look out over forests roamed by chocolate-colored bears. Thessaloníki, Greece’s second-largest city, climbs the hills that rise from its harbor like a denser, even stronger-flavored Genoa or Trieste, while the understated beach resorts around it cater to an international crowd. The food, architecture, and language of the region reflect centuries of influence by Turks, Serbs, and Bulgars.

“Our goal is to get the city to understand and be proud of its past,” Yiannis Boutaris, Thessaloníki’s mayor, told me when we met over coffee and whiskey at a local café. A newcomer to politics after a life in wine, Boutaris can be understood best as Greece’s Robert Mondavi. Like Mondavi, he quarreled with his family, then left its industrial winery to compete against worldwide producers on quality, not volume. That’s where the parallel ends. Ever the iconoclast, Boutaris ceded control of his wine business to his son in order to serve as the only big-city mayor I know of who has a tattoo of a lizard crawling up his hand.

Thessaloníki’s forgotten past includes its connection to wine, which has been made nearby for centuries. Strolling its streets, reveling in the splendor of Greek and Roman ruins, Ottoman temples, and remnants of a once thriving Jewish presence, I encountered a jam of outdoor cafés, one pushed against the next, overflowing with men (and occasionally women) talking, playing cards or backgammon, and drinking coffee or ouzo, but rarely wine. As the hub of a wheel that leads to viticultural areas to the west, northwest, northeast, and south, the city is the ideal base for a tasting tour. Yet you’ll find more accomplished Greek wine on tables in midtown Manhattan.

Outside Thessaloníki, that heritage becomes evident. An hour to the west is Naoussa, where Boutaris started his Kir-Yianni winery. Here the clay soils and mountain breezes, along with water so pure that nobody bothers to buy it bottled, create ideal growing conditions for Xinomavro (zeeno-mav-ro), Greece’s most intriguing red grape. It’s an antisocial variety that greets you with a rush of fruit, then turns its back and bares its fangs. Still, as made by Kir-Yianni or the tiny Karydas Estate, a winery in a house near where Aristotle purportedly once tutored Alexander, Xinomavro shows a crystalline depth that recalls Italy’s Nebbiolo.

From there, I drove farther west and several hundred feet up to Amyndeo, the coolest wine region in Greece. In his zealously tended vineyards, Alpha Estate’s Angelos Iatridis grows a painter’s palette of varieties, from the indigenous Malagousia and Mavrodafne to Syrah, Pinot Noir, even Barbera. It’s an intriguing blend of the local and the international, and so was the dinner we shared at Kontosoros, in the neighboring town of Xino Nero. Many Greek meals are basic affairs, which made Kontosoros a particular find. Meatballs with saffron; pork tenderloin beside frumenty pasta of wheat and yogurt; and a salad of wax beans, capers, pistachios, and scallions were composed with the artfulness—and imagination—that elsewhere might earn chef Nikolaos Kontosoros a cooking show. It was the best meal I had in Greece.

The counterpoint to that ambitious food, and to the Alpine feel of Amyndeo and surrounding towns such as the delightful fairyland village of Nymfeo, was the fried mullet, grilled octopus, and other marine delights I devoured during my alfresco lunch at Agnandi. It overlooks the Aegean in Epanomi, south of Thessaloníki, in a setting of palm trees and striped awnings and rhythmic tides that could seem Caribbean. But the snap of fresh vegetables and the tang of feta is unmistakably Greek, and when it’s clear, you can see Mount Olympus.

Nearby, down a rock-strewn dirt road that looks like the direct route to Nowhere, are the ivy-covered stucco walls of Domaine Gerovassiliou, the region’s most attractive winery. The gardens are awash in color, the museum features an epic corkscrew collection, and the wines are nothing if not polished. On the veranda, sipping a glass of white Malagousia that tasted of lemons and rosewater, I found it easy to forget that bottled wine in Greece (as opposed to wine poured for customers into flasks or jugs) is just a few decades old. Yet viticulture in Macedonia is also an ancient endeavor, and the same characteristics in the land and climate that enticed the original Greeks to cultivate grapes beside the olive trees are at work today. “We’re starting to rebuild a tradition,” Boutaris told me. “We’re finding the special places that give special characteristics to the wines.” Little by little, the world is noticing.

Crete

If you visit only one destination in Greece, make it Crete. Sure, the trashy beach resorts and general decrepitude in and around Iráklion, the island’s biggest city, have a decidedly Third World air. Driving is perilous, meals can be overpriced, weather frustratingly erratic. Even its barren mountains can seem inhospitable and menacing.

But persevere. Crete is a special place, where the distilled essence of Greece is augmented by African, Turkish, and other influences. For wine drinkers, the island is like Darwin’s Galápagos. The catalogue of grape varieties found mostly, or only, on Crete is more varied than that of anywhere I’ve been. If you have even a vague interest in wine, a few days on the island are sure to bring out your inner geek. If you’re into it to begin with, well, it’s like finding buried treasure.

That’s how I felt when I tracked down Lyrarakis, the producer of that marvelous Plyto. I found the winery in the rural hills south of Iráklion, after my GPS had led me through a tangle of rutted roads. The winemaker met me bearing an armful of bottles, then went back for more, for Lyrarakis produces 17 different wines, none priced above $38. Soon I was immersed in a crash course in ampelography, the study and classification of grapevines. I tasted Vilana and Dafni, Vidiano and Kotsifali, Mandilari and Thrapsathiri—not one of which, as far as I’m aware, has ever been commercially planted in the United States. Some, such as the massively structured Mandilari and the Plyto, were good enough that I schemed to ship a case home.

Nearby, past the famous Knossos ruins (which, sadly, have been “restored” to the extent that you can’t tell whether a fresco is a 3,500-year-old original or a recent fabrication), is Boutari Wineries. The company owned by Yiannis Boutaris’s family makes 2 million bottles a year of Moschofilero alone, yet its glass-walled Cretan facility (one of several in Greece) feels surprisingly intimate. The featured players on the day I visited were an evanescent white blend called Fantaxometocho, colloquially referred to as “ghost wine,” and an impish middle-aged woman, Maria Konstantaki, who arrived from the kitchen bearing warm zucchini pie, bread with tomato and feta, and yogurt with sweet grapes. “Cuisine of the grandmother,” she called it, then gave me a hug to show she meant it.

After two nights at the Blue Palace, I moved to Earino, a three-cottage hilltop inn renowned for its farm-fresh food. A chapel the size of a magazine kiosk sits on the property, and one morning of my visit coincided with the only religious service held there each year, on the anniversary of the death of the proprietor’s mother. When I heard bells, I stepped outside my room to see villagers seated in metal chairs positioned around the courtyard. They were dressed in hand-sewn clothes of bright blue and white, the same hues as the sky above and the cottages around us. It might have been a hundred years ago, or a thousand.

A day later, in Canea, or Chania—a small coastal city of warrens and passages, blind alleys, souvenir shops, and restaurants serving provocatively traditional dishes such as spiced rabbit with escargot—I walked along a seawall to a lighthouse that had been built by the Egyptians. I checked in to Casa Delfino, a 17th-century Venetian mansion with a spa, an authentic Turkish hammam, 500-year-old stones, and a roof terrace. Then I drove into the hills to see the Manousakis Winery.

The scene was almost comically rustic. Picture an unsteady table in a backyard, flies buzzing, roosters crowing, apricots and lemons swaying drowsily from trees. Except that pouring me a glass of their Nostos wine was Alexandra Manousakis, a pretty 28-year-old from Washington, D.C., whose father, Ted, owns the Bread and Chocolate chain there. Nostos, it turns out, means nostalgia, which is what Ted, who left Crete for America at 11, felt keenly whenever he returned to visit. So he started a winery, and Alex, an NYU grad who had previously worked for a New York marketing firm, agreed to tend it.

Instead of local varieties, Ted planted the grapes of the Rhône. “My father wasn’t living here, so he had no loyalties to Greek grapes,” Alex told me. Nostos’s blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Grenache, typically found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, rumbled with dark earthiness, and the varietal Syrah showed all the requisite blue and black fruit.

Each time I took a sip, a rooster crowed. A few years before, newly relocated from Manhattan, Alex might have been startled. Now she just smiled and lifted an eyebrow, as if such a thing happened all the time on this magical island. Maybe it does. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Getting There

Fly in to Athens (ATH). The Peloponnese is an hour’s drive away, while nonstop flights serve Thessaloníki (SKG) and the Cretan cities of Canea (CHQ) and Iráklion (HER).
Getting Around

Driving in Greece is easy and pleasurable. Rental cars are a relative bargain, and companies seldom impose one-way drop-off charges.
The Peloponnese

Stay

Semeli Koutsi, Nemea; semeliwines.gr. $
Eat

Savouras 79 Bouboulinas St., Nauplia; 30-2752/027-704. $$

Taverna Klimataria Piteros 11 Kalavriton St., Tripoli; 30-271/022-2058. $$
Taste

Domaine Skouras Malandreni; skouraswines.com.

Domaine Spiropoulos Mantineia; domainspiropoulos.com.

Domaine Tselepos Rizes; tselepos.gr.

Gaia Wines Nemea; gaia-wines.gr.
Macedonia

Stay

Palea Poli A boutique pensione and restaurant perfectly situated in the center of Naoussa; the house-made yogurt at breakfast alone is worth the stay. Naoussa; paleapoli.gr. $
Eat

Agnandi Epanomi Beach, Thessaloníki; 30-2392/041-209. $$

Kontosoros Xino Nero; kontosoros.gr. $$
Taste

Alpha Estate Amyndeo; alpha-estate.com.

Domaine Gerovassiliou Epanomi, Thessaloníki; gerovassiliou.gr.

Domaine Karydas Naoussa; diamondwineimporters.com.

Kir-Yianni Naoussa; kiryianni.gr.
Crete

Stay

Blue Palace Elounda; bluepalace.gr. $$$

Casa Delfino Canea; casadelfino.com. $$

Earino Kato Asites, Iráklion; earino.gr. $
Eat

7 Seas Cretan seafood, plucked straight from the water and served in a lush outdoor park. Iraklitou and Irodoutou Sts., Iráklion; 30-281/034-2945. $$
Taste

Boutari Wineries Make a reservation well in advance to sample Maria Konstantaki’s excellent cooking. Skalani; boutari.gr. $
Lyrarakis Alagni; lyrarakis.com.
Manousakis Winery Canea; nostoswines.com.

Hotels

$ Less than $200

$$ $200 to $350

$$$ $350 to $500

$$$$ $500 to $1,000

$$$$$ More than $1,000
Restaurants

$ Less than $25

$$ $25 to $75

$$$ $75 to $150

$$$$ More than $150

Το Χριστουγεννιάτικο δέντρο ΔΕΝ είναι ξενόφερτο έθιμο

Ίσως λίγοι γνωρίζουν τα όσα θα παραθέσουμε παρακάτω, όσον αφορά το έθιμο του Χριστουγεννιάτικου δέντρου. Το να μη γνωρίζουν κάποιοι τα ιστορικά στοιχεία του εθίμου αυτού σαφώς και δεν είναι κακό. Κακό, όμως, και μάλιστα μεγάλο είναι όταν ελαφρά τη καρδία και απερίσκεπτα, βαφτίζουν Ορθόδοξα Βυζαντινά έθιμα ως Βαυαρικά-βαρβαρικά!- ή και ό,τι άλλο νομίζει κανείς.
Η ιδέα για το στολισμό ενός δέντρου κατά τα Χριστούγεννα δεν είναι ξενόφερτη, όπως θεωρούν πολλοί.

Ας πάρουμε όμως τα πράγματα από την αρχή.

Στην αρχαία Ελλάδα υπήρχε παρόμοιο έθιμο, μόνο που το φυτό δεν ήταν έλατο, αλλά η Ειρεσιώνη. Η Ειρεσιώνη ήταν κλάδος αγριελιάς (κότινος) στολισμένος με γιρλάντες από μαλλί λευκό και κόκκινο και τους πρώτους φθινοπωρινούς καρπούς (σύκα, καρύδια, αμύγδαλα, κάστανα, δημητριακά, κ.λπ., εκτός του μήλου και του αχλαδιού).

Αποτελούσε έκφραση ευχαριστίας για τη γονιμότητα του λήξαντος έτους και παράκληση συνεχίσεως της γονιμότητας και ευφορίας κατά το επόμενο και ήταν αφιερωμένη στην Αθηνά, τον Απόλλωνα και τις Ώρες (Ευνομία, Δίκη, Ειρήνη).

Το διάστημα 22 Σεπτεμβρίου – 20 Οκτωβρίου, παιδιά των οποίων και οι δύο γονείς ζούσαν, περιέφεραν την Ειρεσιώνη στους δρόμους της πόλης των Αθηνών τραγουδώντας κάλαντα από σπίτι σε σπίτι, παίρνοντας το φιλοδώρημά τους από τον νοικοκύρη ή τη νοικοκυρά και όταν έφθαναν στο σπίτι τους κρεμούσαν την Ειρεσιώνη πάνω από την εξώπορτά τους, όπου έμενε εκεί μέχρι την ιδία ημέρα του νέου έτους, οπότε, αφού τοποθετούσαν τη νέα, κατέβαζαν την παλιά και την έκαιγαν. Άλλα παιδιά κρεμούσαν την Ειρεσιώνη πάνω από την θύρα του Ιερού του Απόλλωνος.

Πρόγονος, λοιπόν, του Χριστουγεννιάτικου δέντρου είναι η Ειρεσιώνη, μέσω της οποίας μεταδόθηκε το έθιμο του στολισμένου δέντρου στους βόρειους λαούς από τους Έλληνες ταξιδευτές, οι οποίοι ελλείψει ελαιοδένδρων, στόλιζαν κλαδιά από τα δέντρα που ευδοκιμούσαν σε κάθε τόπο.

Δε θα μείνουμε, όμως, στο τι έκαναν οι αρχαίοι Έλληνες, απλά το αναφέρουμε ως ακόμα ένα στοιχείο για να καταλάβουμε κατά τη λαική έκφραση, ότι ‘’όταν οι Έλληνες έρχονταν οι άλλοι λαοί πήγαιναν’’
ΤΟ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΓΕΝΝΙΑΤΙΚΟ ΔΕΝΤΡΟ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΚΑΙΡΟ ΤΩΝ ΒΥΖΑΝΤΙΝΩΝ ΧΡΟΝΩΝ

To Χριστουγεννιάτικο δένδρο και μάλιστα ως μετεξέλιξη της αρχαίας Ελληνικής «Ειρεσιώνης», όχι μόνο δεν απαγορευόταν στο Βυζάντιο, αλλά αντιθέτως κατά την εορτή των Χριστουγέννων «…κατά διαταγήν του επάρχου της (κάθε) πόλεως, ου μόνον καθαρισμός των οδών εγένετο, αλλά και στολισμός διαφόρων κατά διαστήματα στηνομένων στύλων με δενδρολίβανα, κλάδους μύρτου και άνθη εποχής (Φαίδωνος Κουκουλέ, Τακτικού Καθηγητού του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών και Ακαδημαϊκού «Βυζαντινών Βίος και Πολιτισμός» τ. στ΄, σελ. 152).

Αξίζει να σημειωθεί ότι ένα επίλεκτο Βασιλικό Καβαλλαρικό (Ιπποτικό) Τάγμα της βυζαντινής ανακτορικής φρουράς το οποίο – μεταξύ άλλων – συμμετείχε με τελετουργικό ρόλο σε επίσημες αυτοκρατορικές τελετές – μεταξύ των οποίων και της τελετής των Χριστουγέννων – ήταν εκείνο της «Εταιρείας», το οποίο διαιρείτο σε «Μικρή», «Μεσαία» και «Μεγάλη Εταιρεία».

Τη «Μικρή Εταιρεία» την αποτελούσαν αλλόθρησκοι!!!… (π.χ. εθνικοί, ειδωλολάτρες, μουσουλμάνοι κλπ).

Τη «Μεσαία Εταιρεία» την αποτελούσαν αλλόδοξοι ή/και αλλοεθνείς Χριστιανοί (π.χ. Σκανδιναυοί, Γερμανοί, Ρώσοι, Άγγλοι κλπ). «ΣΗΜΕΙΩΣΤΕ ΤΟ ΑΥΤΟ ΘΑ ΜΑΣ ΧΡΕΙΑΣΤΕΙ ΠΑΡΑΚΑΤΩ»

Τη «Μεγάλη Εταιρεία» την αποτελούσαν «Ρωμαίοι», δηλαδή Έλληνες Ορθόδοξοι Χριστιανοί (Ρωμιοί).

Αργότερα, όταν ήρθε η Οθωμανική Αυτοκρατορία και η σκλαβιά των Ελλήνων, όπως όλοι καταλαβαίνουμε, οι Έλληνες μόνο δέντρα και έθιμα δε μπορούσαν να έχουν. Έτσι σιγά σιγά το έθιμο αυτό χάθηκε από την Ελλάδα και πέρασε στις κεντροβόρρειες Ευρωπαϊκές χώρες.

Από ποιούς; Όπως είπαμε πιο πάνω, προφανέστατα από τους ανθρώπους που αποτελούσαν τη μεσαία τάξη του Αυτοκρατορικού τάγματος οι οποίοι κατάγονταν από εκείνες τις χώρες.

Αργότερα, όταν η Ελλάδα ξαναστεκόταν στα πόδια της, σιγά σιγά το έθιμο αυτό ξαναγύρισε, παρουσιάζοντάς το οι ξένοι ως δικό τους και νομίζοντάς το οι νεοέλληνες ως ξενόφερτο!

Σώζονται ακόμα και σήμερα κάποια βυζαντινά χειρόγραφα που παρουσίαζαν μέσα στους βυζαντινούς ναούς, ορειχάλκινα δέντρα στολισμένα με διάφορα ασημένια και χρυσά στολίδια. Επίσης, υπάρχει ένα τροπάριο που λέμε κατά την προσκομιδή και αναφέρεται στο δέντρο της ζωής. 

» ’Ἑτοιμάζου Βηθλεέμ· ἤνοικται πᾶσιν ἡ Ἐδέμ. Εὐτρεπίζου Ἐφραθᾶ, ὅτι τὸ ξύλον τῆςζωῆς, ἐν τῷ σπηλαίῳ ἐξήνθησεν ἐκ τῆς Παρθένου. Παράδεισος καὶ γὰρ ἡ ἐκείνης γαστήρ, ἐδείχθη νοητός, ἐν ᾧ τὸ θεῖον φυτόν· ἐξ οὗ φαγόντες ζήσομεν, οὐχὶ δὲ ὡς ὁ Ἀδὰμ τεθνηξόμεθα. Χριστὸς γεννᾶται, τὴν πρὶν πεσοῦσαν ἀναστήσων εἰκόνα.’»

Το Χριστουγεννιάτικο δέντρο, λοιπόν, συμβολίζει τόσο το ξύλο της γνώσεως, όσο και το ξύλο της ζωής – το δέντρο από το οποίο δεν δοκίμασε ο Αδάμ και δεν είναι άλλο από τον Ιησού Χριστό! Το δέντρο αυτό οι Βυζαντινοί, το είχαν σαν σύμβολο λοιπόν και όχι για να το λατρεύουν όπως πολύ λανθασμένα νομίζουν μερικοί.

Άλλη μία μαρτυρία για την ελληνικότητα του Χριστουγεννιάτικου δέντρου είναι και αυτή σε κείμενο του Παύλου Σιλεντιάριου (του 563 περίπου) «Έκφρασις της Αγ. Σοφίας Κων/πόλεως» και στην «Έκφρασιν του άμβωνος της Αγ. Σοφίας», όπου περιγράφονται αναλυτικά τα φώτα του τέμπλου και του άμβωνα του μεγάλου Ναού. Στο επιστύλιο του τέμπλου υπήρχαν μεταλλικά δένδρα σε σχήμα κώνου (πυρσόμορφα δένδρα) όμοια με λεπτόφυλλα κυπαρίσσια, που αντί για καρπούς είχανε φώτα σε σχήμα κωνοειδές και βεβαιώνεται ακόμα η χρήση φωτεινών τεχνικών δένδρων (δενδρόμορφα πολυκάνδηλα) σε όλο το Ναό.

Επίσης ας θυμηθούμε τα χιλιοτραγουδισμένα μας κάλαντα και τον επίμαχο στίχο «Αρχιμηνιά κι αρχιχρονιά ψηλή μου ΔΕΝΔΡΟΛΙΒΑΝΙΑ…» Η δενδρολιβανιά ήταν το δέντρο που στόλιζαν παλαιότερα και το οποίο αντικαταστάθηκε με την Ελάτη, επειδή τα κλαδιά της Ελάτης μοιάζουν πολύ με αυτά του Δενδρολίβανου.

Από την Ελάτη αντικαταστάθηκε, επίσης, επειδή, με το σχήμα που έχει, δείχνει προς τον ουρανό, δηλαδή προς τον Θεό…… και επίσης αυτό το δέντρο μένει καταπράσινο και ζωηρό ακόμα και μέσα στο καταχείμωνο δείχνοντάς μας, πως κοντά στο Θεό…. στο Χριστό δεν έχουμε να φοβηθούμε τίποτα, όσες δυσκολίες και αν περάσουν από τη ζωή μας.

Φτάνοντας στο σήμερα, βλέπουμε το δέντρο να δεσπόζει ακόμα σε κάθε Ιερό Ναό. Πολλοί θα αναρωτηθούν! Δέντρο σήμερα στους Ιερούς Ναούς; Ναι πολύ καλά διαβάσατε και αν την επόμενη φορά που επισκεφτείτε κάποια εκκλησία, κοιτάξετε τον κεντρικό πολυέλαιο θα το διαπιστώσετε. Το δέντρο, λοιπόν, σώθηκε με την μορφή των πολυελαίων και μας μαρτυρά πως αυτό το έθιμο προϋπήρχε πολύ πριν το ανακαλύψουν οι όψιμοι ‘’κατασκευαστές εθίμων’’. Επίσης, ας τους θυμίσουμε πως, όταν εκείνοι κατοικούσαν ακόμα στα δέντρα, εμείς είχαμε Μινωικό και Μυκηναϊκό πολιτισμό και ξέραμε, πριν από 2500 χρόνια, πως η Γη δεν είναι επίπεδη, αλλά σφαιρική.

Γι αυτό ας χωνέψουν πως, ό,τι και να κάνουν, όπως έλεγε και ο μακαριστός π.Αθανάσιος…… θα είναι πάντα το ΔΕΥΤΕΡΟ ΧΕΡΙ. Το πρώτο θα είμαστε εμείς!

Το σημείο που πρέπει, όμως, να προσέξουμε εμείς οι χριστιανοί είναι, ότι δεν πρέπει να επικεντρώνουμε την εορτή των Χριστουγέννων γύρω από το δέντρο. Επίκεντρο της εορτής είναι ο Ιησούς Χριστός και το δέντρο είναι απλά ένας συμβολισμός.

Καταλήγουμε λοιπόν, πως λέμε ναι στο ελληνικότατο έθιμο του Χριστουγεννιάτικου δέντρου, αλλά λέμε όχι στο να γίνεται αυτό το επίκεντρο της εορτής αγγίζοντας έτσι τα όρια της ειδωλολατρίας που αυτή -ναι- είναι ξενόφερτη.

Όσον αφορά το στόλισμα του καραβιού, θα θέλαμε να τονίσουμε το γεγονός, πως μετά την επανάσταση του 1821, επειδή πρώτη απελευθερώθηκε η νησιωτική Ελλάδα, δεν υπήρχαν δένδρα ικανά για να κοπούν και να στολιστούν σε ναούς ή σε σπίτια έτσι στόλιζαν το καραβάκι ως το μόνο παραδοσιακά ελληνικό.

Κλείνοντας αυτό το άρθρο θα θέλαμε να τονίσουμε πως χρειάζεται μελέτη και προσοχή πριν χαρακτηρίσουμε ένα έθιμο ή μια παράδοση ξενική, γιατί με το ίδιο σκεπτικό π.χ αν κάποια στιγμή μας επιστραφούν τα κλεμμένα μάρμαρα του Παρθενώνα, τότε θα πούμε πως τα μάρμαρα δεν είναι ελληνικά αλλά Βρετανικά, Οθωμανικά κλπ. Άλλωστε οι εχθροί μας πάντοτε ζητούσαν μικρές αφορμές για να δημιουργήσουν μεγάλα προβλήματα.

Ευχές για καλά Χριστούγεννα
πηγη vimaorthodoxias.gr

Supermoon 2016: 14/11/2016 – videos and pictures

If it’s any constellation, if you miss it on Monday night, there will be ample opportunity for round two on Tuesday and things could even be better then for Sydney-siders with a little less cloud looming.

OPTIMAL SUPERMOON GAZING TIME

Sydney: 7:07 PM – 7:35 PM

Brisbane: 5:51 PM – 6:16 PM

Canberra: 7:18 PM – 7:47 PM

Melbourne: 7:40 PM – 8:09 PM

Hobart: 7:38 PM – 8:12 PM

Adelaide: 7:32 PM – 7:58 PM

Darwin: 6:37 PM – 6:52 PM

Perth: 6:33 PM – 6:53 PM

SUPERMOON PICTURES AND VIDEOS IN SYDNEY 2016

 

 

Diamantina, Lady Bowen (née di Roma) (c. 1832/1833 – 1893) was a noble from the formerly Venetian Ionian Islands

The story of Contessa Diamantina di Roma Lady Bowen’s life. This is a Storylines Q150 digital story. This digital story was by a community group with funding from the Queensland Government. It is a legacy of the Q150 celebrations in 2009.

https://youtu.be/HcMdcLX18IA


Adelaide House, Queensland’s first Government House, where the then new colony was announced. Photo: State Library of Qld

Today is Proclamation Day; the anniversary of the proclamation of the new Colony of Queensland on December 10, 1859, from the first Government House in Brisbane; the requisitioned Adelaide House in Ann Street, onetime residence of Dr Hobbs.

Born out of agitation for a new colony shortly after the end of the convict settlement of Moreton Bay in the 1840s, especially given the distance from Sydney where the important decisions were being made, the year 1859 was especially momentous given the pace at which the colony was formed.

The signing of Letters Patent creating a new colony with a name which, it is said, was the personal choice of Queen Victoria, occurred at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight on June 6. On July 10, the elegant steamer Clarence brought news of a new colony and separation from New South Wales, courtesy of a banner bearing just one word, SEPARATION, as Clarence progressed the Brisbane River.

And now it was almost Christmas and all eyes were directed seaward in search of the warship carrying Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen and his Consort the Countessa Diamantina di Roma, Lady Bowen and their suite which included Adelaide Diamantina (always known as Nina), who had been born in the Ionian Islands; the place of the Countessa’s birth.

In December 1859, the excitement within the community of Brisbane was palpable. There were Brisbane’s 4000 citizens, augmented by a further 2000 down “from the Country”; all enveloped in an assortment of Union Jacks and Greek Flags, a triumphal arch and banners carried by various groups of working men.

Said warship, the Cordelia, was late … by four days, and this only accentuated the sense of excitement.

Rough weather had bedevilled the Vice Regal Party on its interrupted voyage from Sydney. Suddenly, at sunset on the afternoon of Friday, December 9, 1859, Cordelia came into view. It fired a gun and shore-based troopers stationed at Sandgate rushed post-haste into Brisbane and as the next day dawned, the most important ritual was about to be played out.

At 9.30am, as reported by Una Prentice dawning on newspaper reports of that time, the paddlewheel steamer Breadalbane started for Moreton Bay with an official party that included Robert George Wyndham Herbert, grandson of the Earl of Carnavon (who shortly thereafter at age 28 would become first Premier of Queensland).

First impressions, it seemed, mattered. Bowen, onetime Chief Secretary of the British Protectorate with governance over the Ionian Islands, was 38 years old and described as “tall and portly”, his wife “slender and graceful” and an aristocrat in her own right with precedence over her husband.

So it was that the Vice Regal progressed up the Brisbane River aboard Breadalbane to a temporary landing stage adjacent to the City Botanic Gardens of today. It was hot and contemporary sources spoke of “men’s coats turned brown”.

At Adelaide House all was in readiness and from a balcony Sir George Bowen was sworn in and then he read the proclamation declaring Queensland a separate colony.

Queensland Ensign


The original Queensland Ensign. Photo: Supplied

Shore-based troopers stationed at Sandgate rushed post-haste into Brisbane and as the next day dawned, the most important ritual was about to be played out.

Just as there had been alterations to intended borders prior to said declaration and more were to follow, Bowen – like the victors of the Present – then held aloft his little daughter.

A few days later, at a levee, the first (of what were to become two) Queensland Ensign was unfurled. The colony was open for business.
This article is written by David Gibson, Brisbane-based consulting historian. David tweets @BrisHistory, is an author, contributor to the History Queensland magazine and lectures around the world on an assortment of matters historical; with special reference to the Pitcairners, Napoleon and Darwinism.