Leros culture

The culture and folklore art of Leros

leros-cultureFrom ancient times up until today the people of Leros have had influence of their culture from both Greeks and foreigners. They have always managed to isolate just the positive aspects of each culture and have managed to keep a genuine tradition going.

Christianity found it a very welcoming land and developed from its early days. Later Osios Christodoulos planted a deep Christian belief in the inhabitants. It was the period when Leros experienced great intellectual growth and prosperity.

The Lerians, orderly, warm, openhearted and hospitable people, have always loved their island and all that connected them to it. Being islanders, most of them were expert seamen and fishermen.

Few Lerians have ever been farmers, especially as the island is small and cultivatable land little. Amongst them though there have always been worthy craftsmen and experts at making boats and houses.

There are many scattered traditional villages nowadays on the island. With its katoikies: low ceilinged little houses, with many trabes (which were small windows), their whiter than white walls and their blue mantomata.

All this, in the past, secretly gave the effect of being the Greek flag, against all those who occupied the island, something which indicates the strong temperament of the people who do not easily accept oppression, people who do not forget. People with a free spirit.

Modern Lerians love and keep their tradition and intellectual activity alive. The renovated tower of Mpelenis today houses the folklore and history museum of Leros with its rare exhibits.

In Leros’s archeological museum there are noteworthy finds on display including: inscriptions, gravestones, coins, mosaics and pots. At the cultural and artistic events which are organized every summer by the municipality, in close collaboration with local societies, there are concerts, theatrical performances, water sport competitions, art exhibitions and speeches, all worthy of note.

A hospitable place, Leros is always willing to welcome new people and new ways of life, all the time, staying both authentic and human. Today’s Lerians have managed to combine the positive aspects of modern life without betraying their customs and tradition.

For this reason in Leros you will find both fishermen sorting their fishing nets and jet skis tearing around on the sea. You find yourself facing modern tourist resorts which provide all the comforts which are totally in harmony with the natural environment of the island.

Folklore and Tradition

In Leros tradition is a daily occurrence. We find it in a grandmother’s story to her young grandchildren, always at parties and local fairs, in drinking ouzo by the sea, in the delicious food which smell so good from the kitchens of the housewives, in houses, in daily discussions, in the songs and music, at dances and at weddings. In our customs in other words, everywhere!

In Leros we believe that our cultural heritage must not be lost or erased from our minds. Tradition along with history help a person understand who they really are.

Artemis Cultural Society

What their roots are and how they must safely proceed to the future. A significant role is played in this effort by the Cultural Society for young people called Artemis.

The dance shows with traditional dancing that Artemis organizes every summer are well known in Leros, Greece and abroad. In the music and dance section of the society, 150 of those who take part, are children some even as young as five years old.

The Municipal Cultural Centre also plays an important role in the effort to preserve our cultural heritage. One of the sights that anyone must visit, is the folklore museum Emmanouil Isihos which is housed in the tower of Mpeleni.

Songs and music

Leros awakens and night falls to the sound of music. The sun rises and falls with music, one song follows the other, and all together they welcome life! It’s a boat that comes and then goes and then arrives again and departs again.
Every song is destined to express a specific thing, the unique character of every minute of the lives of the people: the love and the enjoyment of a celebration, of a wedding, self sarcasm, sleep, emigration, and death.

Music keeps the Lerian company in every moment in his life. In periods of joy and sadness, when with friends and when alone. Even the young children despite the fact that they are influenced by modern music, dance and sing and enjoy their island’s songs and music, when the celebrations start.

The traditional musical instruments are called pehnidia (toys) in the local dialect. On Leros, as on other islands, the folk musicians play the santouri, the tsampouna (a kind of bagpipes), the lyra, the laouto (lute) and the violin.

Dances of Leros

The traditional dances of Leros are divided into slow, fast and springy dances, like most the dances of the Aegean islands. As soon as everyone gets in the mood as the result of the sounds of the instruments, the kavos or rather the leader of the dance starts to dance and then the others follow.

The Lerian dance Isos, is a slow and smooth dance with a slight rocking movement. Another dance called Stavrotos is called so because the dancers hold hands with their arms crossed.

The dance Pasoumaki which is danced at the same rhythm as the Stavrotos, gets its name from the fact that it is danced on ones toes. The dance Syrtos is very similar to the Syrtos dance of the other islands. The dance Mpalaristos is a springy dance. The Byzantines called it skirto (jump) because it reminded them of being suddenly surprised or taken a back.