Easter: The Transcendence of Kefi

9, May 2012 § Leave a comment

My expectations for the Easter weekend at Ekatontapyliani were set pretty high. And it delivered the goods. The promised rose petals fell from the dome at midnight on Good Friday, the lights of the church were extinguished at midnight on Easter Eve and then hand-held candles, carrying a flame from Jerusalem apparently, relit the church and sanctuary outside. Then sure enough there was a firework display in the square (followed by an unofficial one conducted by unruly teenagers that was menacingly close to the hoards of church-goers!).

But I wouldn’t dare purport to have experienced Greek Easter without having at least sampled ‘Mayiritsa’ — yes, that’s right, gut soup, eaten to reintroduce meat to the diet after lent. So we promptly drifted over to a nearby taverna at midnight after church and I gave it a go. I also ate a couple of ‘kokoretsi’ rings for my dad’s sake (England’s number one Kokoretsi fan, kokoretsi being chopped innards wrapped in intestines).

Although all these experiences were memorable, what really defined Easter 2012 for me was the impromptu dancing in that taverna after the Mayiritsa had gone down. I’m talking old men in the middle of the restaurant dancing ‘Zeimbekiko’ on smashed glass, with paper napkins snowing down on them, sweat and passion till 5am on Easter morning. The rhythm and the melody got me and I just had to dance. Just days before, Eleni had led a Greek dancing lesson on Zeimbekiko so a group of us headed for the clearing between the tables and joined in.

Although I had been taught Zeimbekiko before, Eleni was the first to teach me about the spirit behind the dance; its origin being an ancient war dance that soldiers performed to simultaneously express their pride, pain and passion. That ethos is still alive and literally kicking.

At one point a man jumped from being upright straight down to being horizontal on the ground in a press up position, picked up a wine glass with his teeth from the floor, downed the wine and then with a nod, released it sending crystals of glass in every direction much to the delight of the crowd.

But what never fails to astound me is the agility of the older men who, to be honest aren’t always at the peak of physical fitness. They manage to draw strength for their hops, leaps, twists and slow backwards bends from somewhere beyond their bodies, it must be from their spirits.

Let me introduce the Greek word ‘kefi’. ‘Kefi’ doesn’t succinctly translate into English but refers to an overflow of exuberance from your spirit which can manifest itself in dancing, singing or general high spirits. Sometimes it carries connotations of being so happy you’re a bit mad. What else could possess you to dance till 5 in the morning and not feel tired? In an instant it didn’t really matter who or what you were, we were one group moved by the moment and nothing else mattered. It can’t be planned or expected but sometimes Kefi strikes and when I look back on that night I’m reminded of exactly why I got a one-way ticket to Greece.

– Nicola Pasterfield

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