The custom of Klidonas- people burn the wreaths of 1st of May
Since the ancient times, 1st of May is a day of celebration, joy, a day of the Spring. The ancient Greeks welcomed the Spring with flowers and in the passage of the centuries every area celebrated this day in its own special way.
In Rhodes, the residents of the city but also of the villages welcomed the Spring starting the custom of Klidonas. Every house, every household made its own wreath of flowers on 1st May with flowers from the gardens and the fields. This wreath was kept at their front door until the 23rd June.
On the 23rd of June, St. John ’s Eve, every household would take its 1st of May wreath and gathered all together at the square of the village. After the sunset, the boys lit a great fire in every neighbourhood and burnt the wreaths of the 1st of May as tinder. The young people and children mainly, but whoever wanted, jumped over the flames while they were making secret wishes. InRhodes they used to say that this was the celebration of St. John Kalafouniaris and lit the kalafounous, which means great fire in the Rhodian dialect.
Jumping over the fire meant that people conjured evil, superstitions and wished to be strong and healthy and they had to jump three times. Jumping over the fire would give them health and happiness, as the fire had cleansing power.
The date is fateful and important as a new period starts in 24th June, difficult for the farmers due to the heat and the climate changes, coincides with the midsummer and thus, this custom was saved through time and people lit the fires wishing a good start for that period and onwards.
As soon as the custom of Klidonas finished with the mayan wreaths, the girls, unmarried and single, took water from the well and put it in a bronze container in a specific house. This was the custom of the silent water. It was named as such because during the transfer, the girls should not talk until they get home, despite the boys’ teasing. Whoever talked, spilt the water and had to go back to refill the container. When every girl placed the water in the house, she also put a small bouquet of flowers, so that she could identify it as her own and then returned back to her home. It is said that that night they dreamt of their future lover.
When the container was filled, they covered it with a red cloth and said all together:’we lock Klidonas with the grace ofSt. Johnand whoever has good fate should give and take him.’ The container stayed outdoors during the night so it could be seen by the stars and in the morning, before the sun saw it, they would take it back inside. After the mass of St.John, a boy and a girl opened the house and took out the bouquets while singing ‘open the Klidonas for the graceful to come out and wherever she stands, may she be winning.’ For every bouquet they took out, they used to sing a couplet related to the wedding, a verse foretelling the girl’s marriage. The people around offered various interpretations and prophetic comments for the couplet that was sung to every girl.
Definiton of the word ‘Klidonas’: the word ‘Klidon’ was used by Homer and also in other writings, and it means the omen, the sound that warns you about something, it means prophecy, oracle.