Bread in Tradition

The Cultivation of Cereals in Attica


Sowing took place in October-November. However, the preparatory work had already begun in the spring, when the ploughing was done. The mating was done by two animals, usually mules.

During the Second World War, however, the mules were replaced, since the mules had been requisitioned by the army, with the patient and patient donkeys. The animals dragged the plough, which was wooden. In front of it was a hynes that was metal to be hard and pointed to dig the earth. Behind the plough was two wooden handles that the farmer held and pushed, so that the hine ploughed and furrowed the earth. The plough with two handles was called a ‘German’ plough. On the mountain slopes where ploughing was more difficult it was done with a plough with a handle that used to be wooden and later became metal. This plough was called a ‘kutzura’.


In the month of September the fields were cleared of thorns and grass and prepared for the spore. First they prepared the seed to be used by sieving it. This is how they planted. In the evening they put in the seed to be used the next day, pomegranate and garlic, so that they would have a good harvest. In the morning again when they set out for the field at three or five o’clock if they met someone on the road they did not speak to him and continued on their way.

These superstitions were important to the people and they observed them with religious reverence because their lives depended in those years on a good crop. When they arrived in the field, they first used the plough to form some boundaries in the shape of a rectangular parallelepiped and in them they began to sow. They threw the fruit into a bucket or into the apron that was tied around their waist. With their hand they took the grain and threw it on the earth and continued in the same way until they had covered the whole field. After the first phase of sowing was thus finished, the harrowing followed.

The harrowing [3] was done with animals dragging a board or metal rail behind them and as the animals advanced the harrow [4] covered the seed with soil. In the old days, harrowing was also done with a tree branch. Because the village is mountainous and the arable land is scarce, they even sowed on the slopes. There, to cover the seed, they used the pick axe. The pickaxe is an agricultural tool with a wooden handle and a metal blade that cut on both sides. One side is pointed and the other side resembled an axe.

When a passerby happened to pass by the field the following dialogue would take place:

– Good morning.
– Good morning.
– Good harvest, good berketia.


Harvesting was gradual. Already in May, the hay was collected for the animals, but in June it was mainly wheat that was harvested, which is why this month is called by the people “Harvester”. They would go and reap as they called it ‘dane’. That is, many relatives or neighbors gathered together and harvested the seed one day in the field of one and the next day in the field of another.One helped the other as these jobs at the time when the mechanization of production had not yet been done needed a lot of labor.

The women reaped and the men carried the bales and made the thymes.The harvesting was done with a sickle. With one hand they caught the ears of wheat (a cherobol) and with the other hand with the sickle they cut them and put them in one place. When they gathered three or four stalks together, they formed the straw. The bale was 1\3 of the bale. That is, they gathered three limes together and tied them together with the bundles [5] and thus made a bale. When they had made four bales, they loaded them on the animals and brought them to the threshing floor. They placed the bales in a row so that they formed a pyramid called a thymonia.

This was how the wheat was harvested. But the hay was reaped, as mentioned above, in May and spread out to dry. Then they tied it in bundles with bales and carried it home where it was stored in the stable with the animals. As for the birch, after separating the fruit, the hay was put into crates where they had put wires and with these they tied the hay into balls.


The threshing, like all other agricultural work, very early before five in the morning. First they would take the bundles from the incense trees, untie them and scatter them in the threshing floor. Then they would have the animals run without dung to scatter the bundles. Then they would tie the animals with the doughnuts. Dugenia were wooden planks that had metal blades at the bottom to cut the seed from the stalk. Men would stand on the dugenia, then men would change and the women and then the children would climb up to rest. With their weight, however, the fruit was better pressed and the fruit stood out. The groups of workers changed every two hours or so. The other workers with the carpole [7] and the dicoulas turned the fruit so that it could be threshed better.

The dowries were each tied to another animal. But the animals were also tied together in a row with ropes. These ropes were tied into a knot and made into loops. Into each one they put the head of an animal. This rope structure was called a liacos and its role was to guide the animals to the threshing floor. Usually two rows of five to seven animals each were used. The first went to the front and the second followed further back. At the first and last animal of each row there was a rope with which the whole row of animals was pulled to the right or left. It acted, we might say, like a steering wheel, to steer the animals, sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left, so that they could be untied.

When the threshing was over they would collect the straw, straw and wheat and prepare it for the threshing; then with brooms made of mountain thyme they would sweep the threshing floor of the debris. The threshing of the chickpeas was done in a similar way. In the centre of the threshing floor there was a piece of wood on which an animal was tied, which was turned round and round. A little child pulled the animal to make it move, while with the carpole [7] and the dicuple [8] they turned the wrist.

The threshing floors were round and earthen in Barnabas, but a stone one is also preserved. There were public and private threshing floors. The first threshing floor in the village was in today’s square, but it was moved, because it raised a lot of dust, to the village where the primary school is today, and later to the threshing floors of Adamea and then even further out of the village.

Private threshing floors are mentioned of:

  1. Mylonas Dimitris or Salma
  2. Theodoris John
  3. The following is still preserved today
  4. Dima Sotiris who was stone

The order in which someone would thresh was announced the day before by the village client. An unfortunate event is connected with the threshing. Every time the deli announced that the next day the next day was threshing by tadeh (a particular villager) everyone knew that it would rain on that day. He acted as a standard weather report.

Until the time for the threshing, the winds were waiting at the threshing floor. A farmer’s guard kept the thymns from fire or animals. He was paid in kind, i.e. with wheat, because in the old days there was no money. A tin of oil full of wheat was half a penny. Two cans of wheat oil were a kilo.


The last stage in the process of harvesting the wheat and bringing it home for storage was the threshing. They waited until two or three in the morning for the wind to start blowing. Then they would take a quantity of the milling with the plough [9] and by throwing it upwards with the help of the wind, the separation into straw and grain would take place.

[1] Hellenic Organisation of Tourism – Guide to Attica – En Athinaios Typos “Pyrsou” S.A. 1930

[2] zarganes: vine shoots

[3] harrowing: the covering of the seed with soil

[4] harrow: a tool used to cover the seed

[6] bales: ropes for tying bundles of straw. (6): (6) The bundles were made of rye

[7] spade: shovel

[8] dikulia: wooden shovel with tips at the ends for shovelin

[9] ‘liopata’: a wooden shovel with tipped ends for shovelling

After the steaming was finished, the wheat was then passed through a large sieve, the dremoni, to clear the wheat of the straw residue. The sieve was round. At one end it had a gravel hole where a stick was inserted. Someone would shake the wood and so the sieve would move and sift the wheat. Then they would put the wheat in sacks and carry it home. There they kept it in the sacks or in wooden storerooms and took from there the quantity they wanted at a time. The straw was stored in the barn and was the feed for the animals.


During the time when the agricultural work was being done, the family woke up very early because they had to start work at three to five in the morning.A solid breakfast was therefore essential, consisting of pancakes, herring, bread, olives, cheese and definitely wine. At ten in the morning, after they had already worked for several hours and were tired, they took a break for a snack, which was usually simple and sketchy, olives, boiled potatoes, tomatoes, onions and bread.

Lunch was at twelve to one in the afternoon. They would bring to the field the food they had cooked at home in a large cauldron. They usually cooked bean soup, potatoes, pasta. The cauldron was carried by hand and to prevent it from burning, they used sacks.

The men ate first, then the women and finally the children.

P.S. The above descriptions are excerpts from the book “Carving Memories” (from the life of the inhabitants of the Barnava community) published by the Folklore Society and the Historical Folklore Museum of Barnava.


The Wedding Bun

The Thursday or Friday before the Wedding is the day dedicated to the Wedding Bun.

The mother of the groom or bride invites her friends of about ten people and for whom it is a great honor to participate in this process. The guests come home with gifts showering the mother with blessings. The mother excitedly has kneaded the melted dough for the embroidery treats the guests with sweets and after they put on their aprons they sit at the table and on placemats start making the embroidery.

The embroidery has its symbolism. The grape the communion and blessing, the ear the fertility, the lily the good news, the laurel the victory, the lemon blossoms the fruits of the couple, the dahlia the happiness. In the heart of the embroideries the mother kneads the dough.

Finishing the embroidery, they prepare the bun pans , which are three for the groom’s mother and one for the bride’s mother. The groom’s mother makes one bun for the groom, one for the best man and one for the church. When the dough rises, they put it in the pans and place the embroidery with reverence and blessings. The mother puts a towel over the top and she is the first to treat the bun and then all the guests with money, flowers rice, candy and sometimes cotton with a seed symbolizing the sowing and the couple’s old age. They put them in the oven to bake while the feast begins which includes food, wine, singing and dancing. In the newlywed couple’s wedding feast, the bun is placed on a glass while the bride and groom simultaneously break it and try to get more of the other’s share. Then they throw the guests piece by piece the bun or offer it with a tray depending on the occasion.


The Lady of Lent

Kyra Sarakostis is the figure of a woman made of dough. It is a very widespread custom with a religious and symbolic character. First of all, a female figure is formed with the dough and a cross is placed on her head. We never put a mouth on her, because she is fasting, nor a nose so that she cannot smell and be jealous. Her hands are always crossed, because she prays. Besides, the period of Great Lent is a time of fasting and prayer for Christians. Finally, we put seven legs on her, which symbolize the seven weeks between Holy Monday and Holy Week. Each week that passes we cut off a leg.

Mrs. Lent, therefore, symbolized the fasting before Easter, while at the same time being a kind of calendar.

The Lenten fast
which is an old custom
our grandmothers used to make it
with flour and water!

They used to wear it as an ornament
A cross on her head
And they forgot her mouth
because she fasted for a long time!

And they counted the days
With her feet seven
They cut off one a week
till the Lenten season came!


Carols of Lazarus

Lazarus is here, the Vayas are here,
The week of the Bagias came.
Wake up, Lazarus, and don’t sleep,
Your day has come and your joy has come

Where have you been, Lazarus? Where have you been hiding?
Down among the dead, like a dead man.

You won’t bring me some water,
that my mouth may be a bitter poison.

Bring me not a little lemon,
Where my mouth is like an orchard.

Lazarus is here, the Vayas are here,
Sunday has come, when we eat the fish.

Get up, Lazarus, and don’t sleep,
Your mother’s come from the city,
She brought you paper and a rosary.

Write, Theodore, and you, Dimitri,
write Lemonia and Cypress.

My little brooch needs eggs,
and my pocketbook needs money.

Vaya, Vaya and Vaya.
eat fish and colio.
And next Sunday,
they eat the roast lamb.

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