Up to today the famous Cretan costume is still worn in several villages
as men's everyday wear, as well as being worn as formal wear by men and women
on the occasion of traditional celebrations. The multifarious designs display
a combination of the arts of weaving and embroidering. A specialised tailor sews
the men's costume, which first appeared during the 16th century and includes the
so-called "sariki", a crocheted black scarf, which is wrapped around the head,
as well as the "stivania", the boots belonging to the costume. The formal costume
was richly embroidered in dark blue or black colours and always included the silver
knife and the scarf. Women's traditional costume was introduced during the last
25 years of the 16th century. It appeared in two variations, the "Sfakiani", that
is the costume worn in the area of Sfakia, which later became the official costume
of the entire island, and the "Anoghiani", which was designed later, approximately
in the middle of the 17th century and was mainly worn in the area of Anoghia,
in the province of Mylopotamos.
The Cretan's close relationship to music and dancing can be traced
back to the beginning of the history and the myths of the island. In one of the
most famous myths, that of the "Kourites" for example it is described that the
Kourites, the guardians of the infant Zeus, danced while they beat their shields
in order to cover up the infant's crying. Furthermore historical testimonies give
evidence of this relationship as well as pieces of art such as the well-known
sarcophagus from Aghia Triada, on which for the first time a lyre with seven cords
is depicted. With respect to the same issue Homer mentioned the shield of Achilles,
which was ornamented with pictures displaying revelry at Knossos. All these testimonies
give an exact description of the geographical area where music and dancing were
of major importance in every event of people's life, as for example in the event
of religious ceremonies, entertainment, birth, marriage, death and even war.
The basic instrument of Cretan music, the Cretan lyre, first made its appearance in the 17th century, while the art of playing the lyre became common practice from the 18th century. Of course the initial shape of the instrument was rather different from that of the lyre of modern times, which the Rethymno citizen Manolis Stagakis built in 1940. The lyre, which is in the shape of a pear as it has always been, was first accompanied by the "boulgari" and only later by the "laouto", the lute, which is still used today. Both the sound and shape of the Cretan lyre and the traditional songs were improved after World War II; undoubtedly the lyre players of Rethymno played an important role in this development. During that period Kostas Mountakis and Thanassis Skordalos, both citizens of Rethymno, were the lyre players to blaze the trail for a worldwide recognition of the traditional Cretan music in the following decades. On a similar line other competent artists of that time as well as of previous years such as Manolis Lagos, Andreas Rodinos and Stelios Foustalieris, the latter performing mainly on the "boulgari", helped to establish Cretan traditional music. Thus to the music of the lyre, the laouto and occasionally of the violin and the guitar the musicians sing "mantinades", which are mainly amorous compositions arranged in couplets. Apart from the mantinades, the "rizitika", which are slow songs of narrative character, are also a widespread variety of Cretan music. Their main subjects are marriage, death, historical events, heroic characters etc.
Closely connected to the traditional music and songs as they developed in the course of time was the art of dancing, which the Cretans and particularly the people from Rethymno, who were distinguished by their gallantry, improved to a large degree. The roots of Cretan dances date back to Minoan times. Contrary to the "syrtos", which is danced in a large circle, the "sousta" is danced by couples. It is an erotic and vigorous dance, which is danced almost on the tip of the toes.
The Cretan wedding and baptism also belong to the festivities which
are closely connected with the Orthodox faith, while at the same time they offer
people the opportunity to enjoy themselves and to tighten the bonds between friends
and relatives. The Cretan wedding is of particular importance since the joyous
event is celebrated in high spirits, and sometimes the feast lasts for days. The
ceremony starts with the so-called "carrying-away", when the groom, his relatives
and his friends set off for the bride's house in order to take her away. This
procession is accompanied by a lyre-player and they sing "mantinades", Cretan
rhymes, altogether. At the bride's house they meet with the bride's friends and
relatives and after the two parties have exchanged "mantinades", the bride is
finally given away while pistols are fired into the air. After the church ceremony
a wonderful party is organised with Cretan dances, songs and meat and wine in
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