Friday, 29 March 2013

Not So Good Friday

Here we see the procession of the Epitaphios, which takes place around nine o' clock in the evening of Good Friday in every district of every town in Greece. It's a solemn funeral procession with candles and chanting, creating a heavy, sombre atmosphere as it passes below your balcony in a cloud of frankincense. Even if Christianity ordinarily leaves you as cold as it leaves me, it is impossible not to get caught up in the ever-darkening mood of Holy Week, a mood that will be shattered at midnight on Easter Saturday by rockets and fire-crackers and the proclamation that Christ is risen. It's a great piece of stage management.

I went up to Marks and Sparks a couple of hours ago. The pedestrianised High Street was busy, even for market day, so summat was obviously up. There began a solemn drumbeat of the kind that in old movies accompanies the condemned to the gallows or the guillotine, and the crowd parted to allow the passage of a procession. I looked around for a flower-bedecked glass coffin borne aloft on a bier, and a parade of musicians and bearers of tall candles. Silly of me. There were just four blokes: the drummer, two more without drums, and Jesus. Jesus was identifiable because He had His cross to bear, but it wasn't very big and unlike the ones the Romans were supposed to have used, this was a handy Wheely-Cross. ('Why schlepp!?!?') Also, He was bare-chested and had wobbly red and blue lines painted on his back. The four of them trudged along the street through the channel created by the parting of the crowd. I got up a bit closer. Jesus was about fifty-five and had round shoulders and love handles. He'd removed his shirt but hadn't gone for a loin cloth - it was snowing lightly, after all, and he probably had a wobbly bum. In defiance of all conventional representations of the Saviour, this Jesus wore grey slacks and Hush Puppies. I have no idea what the two non-drum carriers were there for, except not to carry drums.

It might have been a clever attempt at Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt, as the spectacle was entirely successful in not creating awe, compassion, gratitude or any sense whatever of emotional involvement. Then again it might fuck as like. It was just a bit more style-less Brit-frump, of a piece with the awful, clod-hopping Morris dancing we'll have inflicted on us on the same street later in the year. The Greeks do it so much better.

Before any Greek readers feel too superior, on the occasions when we get kiddie brass bands here, those kids can play. I cannot abide brass bands, but I can appreciate technical skill. A friend and I were sitting on the sea front in Kalamata one evening where a local youth band, smartly uniformed, were giving us their repertoire. They were being applauded and cheered to the echo by everyone around us, but they sounded like sick cattle. We sank our beers and moved out of earshot.           

1 comment:

maria verivaki said...

it's almost good friday for us - i suppose you miss this event as it took place in greece, i hope it brings back happy memories for you - καλή ανάνσταση


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