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The story of Agas Sekiz Eminis and the custom of Agas in Chios island.
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Ash Monday at the village square means the celebration of the Agas custom, a custom that has its roots in the years of the Turkish occupation and more specifically between 1830 and 1840. This celebration takes place in specific villages of Chios, the Southern or otherwise the Mastichochoria (where mastic is produced) Mesta, Lithi, Elata, Pitios and Olympoi.
But who was the Agas and why the people in Chios made him a custom? Agas Sekiz Eminis was a Turkish pasha who commanded these villages and had the complete control over the monopoly of mastic by imposing harsh punishments to the villagers that were breaking the law during the production and also judged and condemned according to his own will.
Each autumn the Aga and his team were wandering through all Mastichochoria and was occupying half the production of mastic for the sultan and the rest for him, in order to sell it later at a higher price and gain higher profits. After the end of Turkish occupation, the indignation of the villagers about this injustice led them to start making fun of their mishaps.
That’s why every Ash Monday a villager is dressed like Agas and some others like his employees and begin to judge the villagers in a satirical way. I have been many times in such celebrations, especially to the village Lithi where my half-origin is from, and i can tell you that this experience is unique, humor and satire is one of its key features.
"All the people who find themselves there, are judged too and pay a symbolic amount that depends on the illegal things that they have done (it is deposited to the Cultural Association of the village). Something that I found great is that there is no shame, and they all feel comfortable when they are in front of the Agas to be judged, and the well-aimed comments of the Agas to the defendant cause even more laughter."
The custom, as the most carnival customs, has added some Dionysian elements, masks and satiric songs, while at the end of the day, the Agas is lead to the fire. This celebration doesn’t end up here. After the punishment of all the ones who broke the law and after the payment of the fines that are allocated to them, follows a fiesta with songs and dances (especially if the weather is good the celebration never stops). It is an experience that will surely stay in the memory of every visitor.
Photos by Simadiatouaigaiou και explorechios
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