The custom of Ai-Gior’ takes place on the day of Saint George’s (movable) feast in Nestani, village in the municipal unit Mantineia of Arcadia, Greece. Preparations start days earlier, when volunteers climb Goulas hill, to clean and decorate the Saint’s little chapel. The celebrators [Ai-Giorites] prepare their equipment a day earlier. On the morning of the feast, a number of small groups, in local traditional dress, begin the difficult ascent of the rock of Goulas. Τhey carry sweetmeats, Easter cookies (koulouria). Tsipouro, wine and the Saint’s banner. Once they have arrived, they gather wild flowers, as well as an endemic type of wild celery, with which they decorate their shepherd’s crooks. Over the last years, a service is held in the Saint’s chapel on Goulas, by the priest of the Monastery of Gorgoepikoos. Once Holy Mass has ended, the celebrators gather outside the chapel, to sing their first song and begin their first dance on the threshing floor of Goulas. On that day, all songs and dances are performed a cappella. There are two categories of songs, those of the procession-descent, and those sung during the dancing. The songs are rendered antiphonally, with the first group singing one verse, and the second group repeating it. The dances are performed in a double circle – with the men forming the outer circle and women the inner one – with a syrto and kalamatiano rhythm. Dancers hold each other by the arms, with their crooks held high above their left shoulder. Then, at around 9 a.m., the participants set off, beginning their descent to the Monastery. Once they have all gathered on the road, at a short distance from the Monastery, they form a procession, divided into two informal groups. Singing antiphonally, they make their way towards the Monastery. The groups are mixed, including both men and women, comprising of rows of six, with the men forming the first rows of each group and the women following. The participants proceed with arms linked, supporting their crooks with their left shoulders. The group singing a verse stops walking and moves forward again once it has ended.
More information on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece: http://ayla.culture.gr/en/