The custom of Klidonas has its routes in ancient times. Single women would gather around and an oracle would tell them the identity of their future husband. The word Klidonas derives from the ancient word Klidon which was the sound of prophecy, the random words and actions that came through an oracle during the ceremony of fortune-telling.
On 23 June, the day before St. John’s (Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Πρόδρομος) name-day, all single women would meet in a friends house and walk to the nearest spring. Then one girl whose parents were still alive (and most probably called Maria) would have to bring some water to the house and fill a ceramic pot with it. The water is called “silent water” because everyone who would have the privilege to carry out this mission would have to do so without saying a single word throughout the whole process. Each girl would then put a personal item into the pot and the pot would be sealed with a red cloth and put under the stars for the night. All girls were supposed to dream of their future husbands that night.
During that night men and women would gather sticks and light fires at the streets. Each neighbourhood had its own fire, the “karabousties” or “booboones” and the biggest one was lit at the Main Square of the village or in any open space so everyone could see. Everyone would then take turns and jump over the fires at least three times each.
Next morning before sunrise – so the magic influence of the stars would not disappear – the girl who brought the water would bring it indoors to begin the ceremony. Married women and men would also be invited this time so they could be witnesses to this important fortune-telling. “Maria” would then take the red cloth off and for each personal item she pulled out, a different rhyme would be read out. The rhymes or song lyrics or poetry that was read would represent the fortune-telling for each girl. When this process is over and when it is closer to sunset, each girl would have to fill their mouth with a sip of the ‘silent water’, stand beside an opened window and wait till she hears the first male name from the passersby. That was meant to be the name of their future husband.
The celebrations would end with a big feast where everyone was invited.
The custom of Klidonas is being kept alive in most places in Greece and exists in different variations. For example, nowadays not only single girls carry the water but boys also, the rhymes are now mostly rude anecdotes and poems so everyone, well, almost everyone, laughs and the ceremony is more like a party than a fortune-telling ceremony. There is always plenty of food and drink and in some areas like Molyvos, there is a huge fire lit in the centre of the village and people still jump over it. The bigger the fire the better, the ruder the anecdotes the merrier!
Every year, Klidonas is celebrated in Lefkonikou Square, Molyvos – see the map below