AEROSTATA - HOT AIR BALLOONS
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Easter is the main time of year where hundreds of these hot-air balloons are set off. This is a tradition that has been occurring in Leonidion for over fifty years. People all over Leonidion make their own and sometimes race them.
These events generally take place on the eve of Easter, Saturday night (thn Anastasi) and on Easter Sunday at one of the main platias. These colorful balloons are made from tissue in a variety of colors. They have a circular bottom and trigonal shape. The bottom is connected to wires, which are in the shape of a cross in the center of the balloon. They place a rag soaked with gas in the center and light it, in order for the balloon to take off.
On Saturday, outside all the churches of Leonidion everyone waits for the priest to say the "Hristos Anesti", once he begins singing this hymn, everyone that is holding the lit aerostata, set them free. Around two hundred balloons are set off from each church in Leonidion. This in total ends up lighting the spring sky with approximately one thousand aerostata. The sky it literally filled, and they can stay up in the air for at least a half-hour, then the wind takes them away. Some have even been known to reach the near-by island of Spetses. There is also the danger of fires starting if the gas is not completely burned when the balloons fall back down to the ground.
The next day, during Easter Sunday, at approximately 5:00pm - 6:00pm the mayor of Leonidion has an event at the main platia, once known as "to Platia tou Zarani". Which used to be owned by my uncle. The mayor hands out diples (honey coated pastry), then the local dance group begins to dance. Approximately fifty to one hundred aerostata are set off again, as the dance group begins to dance. Local towns' people also set off firecrackers.
Easter in the Town of Leonidion is a very unique event, where many from all over Greece and the world take time to observe. It is a memorable event where much of the holiday spirit is felt.
Pictures of the Aerostata are taken from the "Oxigono" magazine of Greece, April 1997.
EGGPLANT / AUBERGINE FESTIVAL
Every year, around August 22, Leonidion hosts their annual Eggplant (Melitzana) Festival. People gather from all over Greece to take part in the festivities. Plaka, the main port area, becomes a focal point for most of the events. The local dance group performs "Tsakonika" dances. The women of the town make one or two eggplant dishes to enter into an annual contest, where renowned chefs select a prize-winning recipe. The chefs that come to vote on the best eggplant dishes come from the United States, France and England.
The European Economic Community has named Leonidion the "Tsakonika" Eggplant capital of Europe. These eggplants are sweeter than eggplants grown in any other parts of Greece. Because of this, the EEC has developed a symbol / sticker to put on the eggplants, indicating that you are purchasing an authentic 'Leonidion "Tsakoniki" Eggplant'.
You can bet your Mousaka that Leonidio has the best tasting eggplants in the world!!!
(For more information on the European Economic Community's Regulations on tsakonika melitsanes click here)
Άλλα Πανηγύρια στο Λεωνίδιο -
Other Festivals in Leonidio
8 Μαιου- Αγ. Χριστόφορος, Ζαρίτσι Τυρού / 8 May- Agios Hristoforos, Zaritsi, Tiros
9 Μαιου- Φωκιανό / 9 May- Fokiano
30 Ιουνίου- Αγίων Αποστόλων, Λάκκος Λεωνιδίου / June 30- Agioi Apostoli, Lakos Leonidio
17 Ιουλίου- Αγ. Μαρίνα, Τυρός / July 17- Agia Marina, Tiros
20 Ιουλίου- Προφήτης Ηλίας, Λεωνίδιο, Τσιτάλια και Πελετά
20 July- Prophet Ilias, Leonidio, Tsitalia and Peleta
6 Αυγούστου- Μεταμόρφωση Σωτήρος, Παραλία Τυρού, Άνω Βασκίνα, Πελετά
6 August- Metamorphasis of Sotirios, Tiros, Ano Vaskina, Peleta
Τελευταίο Σάββατο του Ιουλίου- πανηγύρι των απανταχού Βασκινιωτών στη Κάτω Βασκίνα
Last Saturday of July- Lower (Kato) Vaskina
Μέσα στο τελευταίο δεκαήμερο του Αυγούστου- η <<Γιορτή της Τσακώνικης μελιτζάνας>> στο Λεωνίδιο
End of August- Festival of the Tsakoniki Eggplant, Leonidio