The Feast of Agioi Theodoroi
The feast of Agioi Theodoroi, (St. Theodore Stratelates [the General] & St. Theodore Tyron [the recently enlisted soldier]), is a custom that has survived for centuries in Nevrokopi, since the time of Julian the Apostate.
It is celebrated in the chapel of the Saints, which is located at an altitude of about 1150 meters northeast of Nevrokopi, on a steep slope, in the area of "Aloni" by the road to Potamoi.
On their way up to the chapel, the pilgrims sing and dance. They stop for a while at the chapel of Agia Eleni (St. Helen) to get some rest, and move on until they reach Agioi Theodoroi, where they will spend the night. The next day they light a fire and attend a small service in the chapel.
In order for “koulaki”, their traditional bread to be blessed, they put it in front of the chapel and go around the chapel three times.
In the morning they start going down the mountain. They stop at a col where "kotkes" (or "kotsitsi-matsitsi") grow. “Kotkes” or “Haller's anemone” is a kind of blue lily with fluffy petals, also known as "Pulsatilla halleri”, which are picked up to be given to the young girls of the village when they arrive in "Aloni". Tradition has it that "kotkes" are put under a girl’s pillow to see who she will marry. What is certain is that the special beauty of these lilies, as they bloom in the snow, speaks volumes about the power of nature, and foretells the coming Spring and Resurrection. In "Aloni" the people are waiting for the return of the pilgrims.
From 2015 onwards, at the initiative of the community council of Kato Nevrokopi in collaboration with "Agiotheodorites" (people who take part in the feast of Agioi Theodoroi) and cultural associations, the “meeting revival” custom takes place with people dressed in traditional costumes, festivities and plenty of fasting food. It is worth mentioning that the Vicar of Agios Dimitrios also contributes to the feast: every year, he goes up to the chapel, prays to the Saints and then, together with the pilgrims, carries in procession the icon from the chapel to “Aloni” on a route of about 5 km.
It would be interesting to look into the rich religious and folk traditions that come along with this custom. The miracle of koliva (a ritual food) performed by Agioi Theodoroi is of great importance for the people of Nevrokopi, and the pilgrimage is intertwined with their very existence. Agioi Theodoroi, along with Elijah the Prophet, once created a protection chain for the inhabitants of the area, which is why they hold a special place in their hearts. For some people, the ascent to the chapel is a lifelong pledge, passed from father to son, from generation to generation.