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Kavos: a local custom in Tinos

The custom of Kavos revives at Tripotamos, during Christmas time. It is known as the “Table of Brotherhood”.

The “Kavos” is the villager who will take the care (cleaning, lighting oil-lamps, candle supply) of the village church for the entire year, down on Christmas Day, during a particular ritual, being in accordance with the monastic rules and principles.

After the Mass and procession that follows, the men of the village gather in the house of the old Kavos and participate in the lunch meal, round a table where, though the menu is always the same, each kind of dish has its own symbolism (eg stew onions: sweetness, grape leaves with rice: brotherhood / unity, beef tongue: expel the gossip).

Before sitting down, the men greet each other with a handshake, while any previous disagreements should be forgotten and they reconcile with each other.

Round the same table, in the past, public works of the village were planned by the villagers who would undertake them and work together all the year round.

The meal ends and the icon of Christ’s birth is brought home by the old Kavos and Christmas hymns are sung. All candles are lit and the priest distributes the holy bread. The priest then asks who will be the new Kavos. The new Kavos is defined and the Icon returns to church.

The obligations of the old one completed, and all wish the best of luck in the new commitments.

On New Year’s Day, Kavos, holding the icon of the Nativity, is marching ahead of the procession, which bears the “unsleeping light” that has not ever been extinguished since when this custom came into light.

The procession stops at every house in the village. The icons must be the first to enter everybody’s home. Nobody in the village is allowed to visit his home earlier. The priest makes sanctification and every candle at home is lit with the unsleeping light.

In the custom, one can find Christian or medieval elements and even those related to Mount Athos, whereas it is possible that the custom is much more deeply rooted in history since analysts identify commonalities with some of the religious customs of antiquity.

The origin of the name of “Kavos” is a mystery, as is the sacramental character of the custom. The truth is that it will keep on binding the village with tradition for many years, since the list of prospective “Kavos” already reaches 2025!


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