This is an established fair organized by the Municipality of Sifnos during the first fortnight of February, in order to reward the best sifnian carols. The custom of carolling is found all over Greece, and as it was imported in Sifnos by Constantinople, it presents some peculiarities; on the one hand, the carols are sung to a Byzantine rhythm on New Year’s Eve and on the day itself – not on Christmas or on the Epiphany (locally called “Ton Foton”) – and on the other hand, new carols are written each year, for the children, church committees, and various associations, with a double goal: keeping the custom alive, and securing the financial aid to repair and maintain churches or organize cultural or other activities. The carols, which are evaluated by a five member committee and vary greatly as to their content and theme, record local, national or even international events of note, and attract attention as lingual monuments, since they enshrine and immortalize local speech idioms.
On the last Sunday of Carnival (locally called Apokria), the Cultural Association of Sifnos, with the support of the Municipality of Sifnos, organises the “Sifnian Carnival”, alternating annually between the square of Artemonas and Apollonia. The peculiarity of the Sifnian Carnival lies in the subjects that are presented to the public, by single people or groups, and which usually concern local customs or current affairs, and are usually presented in the form of short plays or skits. The three best subjects are rewarded by a judging committee.
During Lent, on every Sunday and holiday afternoon, local associations in various villages organize the “tsounia” game. The game is played in pairs (one man and one woman), and it is an opportunity for young people to meet, have some fun, and enjoy one of the most important opportunities to express their amorous sentiments to one another, mainly via the selection of their young female game partner. At the same time, improvised swings are set up, (locally called “kounistres”) for the young men to push their partners on.
On the evening of Good Friday there are two meetings of the Epitafios (portable shrines) while they parade through the streets of all central neighbourhoods, in a reverent religious atmosphere, under the sounds of the hymns of the Easter Laments: In the yard of Saint Constantine’s church, at the central square of Artemonas, we have the meeting of the Epitafios from the parishes of Panagia Kochis (Artemonas), of the Taxiarchs (Agios Loukas) and of Saint John (Ano Petali), while in the yard of Saint Stylianos in Arades, we have the meeting of the Epitafios of the parish churches of Saint Spyridon (Apollonia), Saint Nicholas (Exabela) and Saint George (Katavati).
On Easter Sunday night, the Cultural Association of Sifnos delivers the effigy of Judas to the flames, alternating annually between the square of Artemonas and Apollonia, after a procession of ridicule through the streets of Sifnos. In Sifnos, as in many other places in our country, burning the Judas, beyond the inherent symbolism of punishing any traitor, it is also a spectacular procession which is integrated in the festivities for welcoming spring. Afterwards, Easter treats are handed out, and local dances are presented by members of the Association’s dance companies, accompanied by a Sifnian takimi (violin and laout, similar to an oud or lute).
The Sifnian Municipal Corporation for Tourism Development, in cooperation with the Cultural Association of Sifnos and the Municipality of Sifnos, have been reviving for the past few years (every year, on the Eve of the Holy Spirit, fifty days after Easter Sunday) the communication network of ancient beacon towers and citadels of Sifnos (dating from the 6th to the 3rd century BCE). With the noble participation of dozens of volunteers, communication between these points is achieved via smoke and mirrors, almost 2,500 years after the first use of these beacon towers. These towers were built on strategic spots all over the island, and they constituted a network that used a system for exchanging messages via smoke or fire, having the capability to receive and transmit signals to each other and to each of the island’s four ancient citadels. The archaeological research is ongoing, and has so far recorded 76 ancient beacon towers, which are unique as far as their construction is concerned, as well as their superior numbers compared to the other islands of the Aegean. Even compared to the size of the island, which is only 74 square kilometres, the ratio is impressive (almost one tower per square kilometre), a fact that is explained by the riches of the island, due to the deposits of gold, lead, and silver, and owing to the fear of possible seaborne enemy raids. (According to the writings of Herodotus, Sifnos was the richest island of all). The ever-increasing participation of volunteers and the addition of more spots each year are indicative of the dynamism of this project that showcases the island’s archaeological wealth.
On the day of the Holy Spirit, which is also the last day of dance classes offered during the school year by the Cultural Association of Sifnos, the Association’s dance companies (totalling more than 100 people, from grammar school children to adults) perform traditional dances from all over Greece.
At the end of the school year, every spring, there is a concert by the students of the Sifnian “Fragiski Psaharopoulou – Karori Music Workshop”. As with all the other public events that are held annually, the entrance is free for the public.
Rare artifacts from our folk tradition, usable and decorative, objects that are connected with jobs and habits that have almost disappeared or have changed in character with the passing of the years and the changing conditions, all are displayed every year, from July 15 to September 15 in a small traditional house in the “heart” of Artemonas, one of the most picturesque villages of Sifnos. Many of these come from Constantinople and Alexandria, which used to be two important cultural and commercial centres of the Greek world, with important sifnian activity. Items with great actual and sentimental value that have been preserved mainly by the love and care of the Sifnian women, and which are on exhibition after a decision of the Cultural Association, so that the need to maintain them would become evident to all. This exhibition teaches us to walk through the present and into the future with a respect for the past, our companion and guide being how much of its beauty we can hold on to, and this creates a new vision: the creation of a permanent folk museum in Artemonas, to keep the memory alive for the old, and the lessons current for the young.
From the beginning of August to 15 September, at least, there are two important exhibitions with works of art from the collections of the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum and the archives of the Benaki Museum. The first one includes works of painting and sculpture, of figurative or abstract art, created by well known Greek painters and sculptors, while the second one hosts exhibits from the photographic archive, the collection of etched art, or from broader collections of the Museum, which present an aesthetic, ethnographic and historical interest. The exhibitions are organized by the Municipality of Sifnos with the cooperation of these two cultural “colossi” of our nation, and are supported by the Cultural Association of Sifnos.
Every year on the 15th of August the Ecclesiastical Committee of Panagia Kochis organizes a fair in the church yard in Artemonas, with traditional music, dances and treats.
For the past twenty two years, two Saturday evenings each August, the editor of the “Sifnos” paper organizes, at their office yard in Sifnos (on the path leading from Apollonia to Pano Petali, next to the Church of the Taxiarch) Literary Saturday Evenings, under the title “Gryparia”, in honour of the Sifnian poet Ioannis Gryparis. These evenings include readings and recitations of literary texts and poems by selected spiritual people and sifnian treats by the host.
Every year, during the first fortnight of September, the Cultural Association of Sifnos, the Municipality of Sifnos and the Periphery of the Northern Aegean, organize the three day “Nikolaos Tselementes” Cycladic Gastronomy Festival. Guests from all the Cycladic islands gather there to cook local recipes and “set the table” with choice local food for all visitors. The Festival also includes many simultaneous exhibitions and other fairs.