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Easter Lamb and Cheese Market

Every Easter for as long as anyone can remember the streets of Psiri, particularly the area around Platia Iroon, have hosted the Naxos Lamb and Cheese Market.

lamb and cheese market The neighborhood of Psiri has been home to people from Naxos for well over a hundred years. Several days before Easter the shepherds come to Athens from the island and set up their stalls. They all sell pretty much the same thing. They have lambs and goats of all sizes, cheese from the same lambs and goats and some people have home-made wine. In the old days the lambs were alive and Athenians and transplanted Naxiotis would choose the one they wanted for their Easter Sunday dinner, it would be led away and return skinned and gutted. But now the lambs and goats are killed beforehand and brought to Psiri in large refrigerated trucks like American style 18-wheelers or in some cases by a tractor pulling a home-made trailer and a big freezer. As you wander around the farmers offer you a taste of their cheese and proudly show you how fresh and healthy the animals are, (or were).

Lamb and Cheese market This year I spent my Easter in Athens and bought my lamb from the Naxos Market with the help of my friend Kostas from the
Geniko Emborio Eklekton Proionton Naxos , the local Naxos 'supermarket' who had his own stand selling his delicious cheese and wine. Kostas called over one of his friends and told him to take me to the trucks and find the freshest 18 kilo lamb for me. We wandered through the back streets until we found a parking lot full of refrigerated trucks, each with a crowd at the back and one or two men inside the truck bringing out lambs and goats in the sizes requested. The animals were then weighed and put into a red plastic garbage-bag, not to be confused with the blue plastic garbage bags which the lambs and goats bought at the Athens Central market were put in. It made it interesting because as Easter Sunday came closer and closer and more and more people walked the streets of downtown Athens carrying their lambs you knew which market they had gone to. I admit I was feeling some pride that I was carrying the red bag from the Naxos market. To me it meant that I knew something others didn't and in fact when I asked many of my friends if they knew about the Naxos market in Psiri they didn't, even though it has been going on for hundreds of years.

lamb and cheese market For those who are curious an 18 kilo lamb costs around $125 and is a lot heavier then it sounds. I had to carry it back to the Attalos hotel where they let me keep it in the walk-in cooler in the kitchen until the night we threw it into the back of my friend Ana's car and drove it through the streets of Athens to the house of the friend who had agreed to host our easter dinner, like we were disposing of a dead body.

If you are in Athens in the days preceding Easter be sure to come to Psiri and check out this phenomenon. It usually begins the Wednesday before Easter and goes through Saturday. By Saturday night the streets are completely deserted until 11pm when everyone goes to church. Then at midnight they light the candles, the bells begin ringing and Psiri comes alive with fireworks. As the festivities are dying down and many people go to their homes and the restaurants that serve the traditional magaritsa soup to break their long fast, the farmers and shepherds of Naxos go down to Pireaus to board the special ferry that takes them back to their island to celebrate Easter Sunday with their families at home.

Anyway the photos I took should be loaded up by now. If you have a decent connection listen to what Kostas has to say about the
Naxos Lamb and Cheese Market

lamb and cheese market

lamb and cheese market

lamb and cheese market

lamb and cheese market

lamb and cheese market

Remember...red bags are cool.

See Also: Psiri , Easter, Greek Food, Holidays, Naxos

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