Tuesday, 31 December 2013
Harold Wilson once said in the 1960s: “A week in politics is a long time back.”
It became an oft-quoted adage among journalists and politicians, and was developed as theme in the political-comedy television series, Yes Minister:
Sir Humphrey: In a week’s time this whole thing will have blown over and in a year’s time we’ll have a safe and successful factory on Merseyside.
Jim Hacker: A week is a long time in politics.
Sir Humphrey: And a year is a short time in Government.
As the year comes to an end, I realised this afternoon how short a year can be in the life of a family.
After lunch in Howard’s Way in Rathgar, some family members gathered together this afternoon. At one stage there were four generations of the family in one room in the house in Grosvenor Road.
My grandfather could say his grandfather, who was born in 1775, was born a year before the American Revolution and could remember the 1798 Rising in Co Wexford. Will my sister’s grandsons remember to say their grandmother’s grandfather could say that his grandfather’s ...?
Outside on Grosvenor Road, I stopped to admire the villas and terraced houses, which are fine examples of Victorian architecture, with houses designed and built by Edward Henry Carson (father of Sir Edward Carson), George Palmer Beater, and the brothers James and William Beckett – William Beckett was the grandfather of Samuel Beckett.
Grosvenor Road Baptist Church stands on the corner of Grosvenor Road, Grosvenor Place and Kenilworth Road. It is attributed to Carson, and was built as Rathmines Baptist Church. It is an interesting example of Gothic architecture in the middle of Victorian suburban Rathmines and Rathgar.
The church was built as Rathmines Baptist Church in the 1870s by English Baptists. It was used for a while by the Plymouth Brethren, and returned to use as a Baptist church in 1942. The choice of Gothic is unusual for Baptists in the 1870s. The main entrance to the church has an interesting arrangement of arches, with an attractive towered façade.
As the afternoon came to a close – but before the sun set on 2013 – two of us went for a walk in Marlay Park. Through the tall bare limbs and branches of the trees, the orange glaze left by the setting sun was lighting up the blue winter sky.
In among the tall trees and by the banks of the babbling brooks and the small footbridges, we came across the “Fairy Tree” which has become one of the sights of Marlay Park in recent years, and has been the crowning glory of the bird project at Saint Michael’s House, Templeogue, since 2010.
The bird project involved installing a purpose built “Fairy Castle” on a tree in the forest in Marlay Park. This five-towered castle, built in special weatherproof material, is designed as a nesting and roosting site for small birds and insects.
But the “Fairy Tree,” with its turrets and towers, crenellations and battlements, secret doors and Gothic windows, is also designed to keep the imagination of young children alive, as they wander through the forest and then are surprised to find the small fairy door at the base of the 300-year-old beech tree.
I came home with an unusual Christmas present – a Chocolate Santa with a best before date of 30 April 2014. Santa has a best-by date that expires before next Christmas? If a Fairy Tree can survive in a 300-year-old tree, surely Santa can last until at least next Christmas?
Have a wonderful and a blessed 2014.
I began my reflection on the passing year yesterday morning [30 December 2013] by reviewing what I think were the ten main religious stories of the year.
This morning, I want to look back at ten of my own stories of the passing year.
1, Being a small part of Greek journalism
For many years, I was a regular reader of The Athens News, once Greece’s oldest and only English-language newspaper. After 49 years as a daily newspaper, The Athens News became a weekly newspaper in 2001, and it was a pleasure to be a guest contributor, reviewing the exhibition Byzantium 330-1453 a few years ago.
However, with the collapse of the Greek economy and increasing competition, The Athens News fell on hard times, it folded for last time on 5 October 2012, and the website was finally taken down in March this year.
Some of the former journalists with The Athens News have faithfully maintained the Facebook page, others have been involved in setting up a new English-language newspaper, Athens Views, which hit the newsstands and the kiosks or periptera across Greece on 2 August this year.
An exciting development, with immense potential in recent months is EnetEnglish, an independent, online news service focused on Greece. This online service was launched last February and is backed up by a Facebook page that gives access to the main website and can also be followed on Twitter.
EnetEnglish has provided unrivalled news coverage of the arrest of the leading members of the Neonazi hate gang, Golden Dawn, which poses as a political party. With its comprehensive and analytical news reports and features, photographs and cartoons, backed up by an up-to-minute blog roll, it is unmatched by any other Greek news site.
EnetEnglish is a division of one of my favourite Greek newspapers, Eleftherotypia (Ελευθεροτυπία), a national daily with sympathies on the left in Greek politics. It was founded in 1975, a year after the collapse of the colonels’ regime and the restoration of democracy in Greece.
It faced severe financial problems two years ago, when only four editions were published in 2011, and the newspaper filed for bankruptcy that December. But Eleftherotypia and its internet site, Enet, were relaunched at the beginning of this year.
The site supports making Greece’s democracy and economy more transparent, meritocratic and accountable, and the staff include Damian Mac Con Uladh, who is also known in Ireland for his reports and analysis of Greek politics and life in The Irish Times.
During the year, EnetEnglish reposted my blog posting from Rethymnon on the periptero or kiosk that is found on almost every street corner in Greece, and that serves as much more than newsstands. The posting was quickly reposted on websites such as Real Corfu and on the Athens News Facebook page, and has since been shared on countless blogs and Facebook pages on Greece.
One Greek diplomat, now living back in Athens, commented: “From one who knows Greece probably much better than most Greeks, who has an amazing understanding and genuine love for Greece.” We have been good friends for many years, but to read her comments still brought a smile to my face.
It was a true pleasure to be part of EnetEnglish, Eleftherotypia and Greek journalism this year. It was a tiny but positive contribution to life in Greece, which continues to be wracked by economic woes and plagued by a vicious and nasty far-right.
2, Journalism, blogging and freedom of expression
This year has been the second worst year for jailed journalists, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Around the world, 211 journalists, editors and bloggers are in jail, a figure that is marginally below that the peak figure of 232 last year. Turkey still jails more journalists than any other country – there are 40 journalists in Turkish jails – followed by Iran (35), China (32), Eritrea, Vietnam, Syria, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Uzbekistan.
The list does not include journalists who have been abducted or are missing; for instance, at least 30 journalists are missing in Syria. In all, 52 journalists have died this year doing their work, according to CPJ, but Reporters without Borders puts the figure at 71. They include 21 in Syria, six in Egypt and five in Pakistan. Iraq, the Philippines, Algeria, Russia and Syria are the most deadly places for journalists to work.
Journalists remain among the most powerful weapons against state brutality and oppression, so the death and detention of journalists is more than just a personal tragedy. This is probably difficult to imagine in Britain, where the press is still tainted by phone-hacking scandals.
But the threats to freedom of speech and freedom of expression by journalists, editors and bloggers come not only in the form of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Any country considering offering asylum to Edward Snowden soon drew down the wrath of Washington, which even tried to block the European flight of one Latin American president when it was rumoured that Edward Snowden was on board his plane.
I don’t know the origins of the saying: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get you.” But Henry Kissinger once said: “Even a paranoid can have enemies.” I suppose it may just help to explain what has been happening to this blog since the end of last month.
Even in my wildest dreams, I cannot imagine this blog becoming a celebrated and celebrity blog. It is of interest to those who want to read my lecture notes, to re-read my sermons or my columns in local diocesan magazines, or to discuss the boring details of the conditions they share with me – Sarcoidosis and severe Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Occasionally a posting sparkles, and then I hear about – an example was that blog posting from Crete on street-corner kiosks. But, for the most part, my blog postings get few online comments, rarely do I attract more than 900 or 1,000 readers a day, and so I feel I know many of my readers well, and know what you enjoy reading.
I resisted putting a counter on this blog because I wanted to write what was meaningful to me … not to write in order to attract readers in greater numbers. It took a long time to reach the half million mark, and a long time again to notice that I had a million readers. I am not feigning modesty or humility when I express gratitude.
But towards the end of the year something funny started to happen.
Last month [21 November 2013], for the first time ever, the number of hits on this blog passed the 2,000 mark, with 2,004 pageviews that day. The following Tuesday, the numbers passed 2,400. A month later, on 22 December, it reached an all time high of 2,710 hits.
Why, I wondered, was the normal number of visitors to this blog more than doubling?
As I reviewed the hits and the source of traffic, the only coincidence I could identify was that this began on the day I was the guest speaker at a debate in the ‘Phil’ in Trinity College Dublin, speaking out for Edward Snowden, for freedom of information and for freedom of the media.
Of course, those speaking against my team tried to assure all present that those of us who have done nothing wrong have no need to fear the snoopers.
But 2,004 pageviews on that one day? And 2,710 a month later?
Even I do not believe – yet – that I can attract or am deserving of such sudden popularity. Too boring, I thought, and so I let it go. I’m not paranoid enough to draw too many conclusions from such a coincidence.
The traffic became furtive. In just over a month, there have been almost 200 anonymous efforts to post comments to my postings that appear to be meaningless but also appear to carry malicious viruses with them.
I cannot imagine how any person or organisation has the time or the staff to post so many anonymous comments on a blog posting from April 2012 on music in a south Dublin parish. Once yes, but over 40 times? None of the comments was relevant, but all appeared to have malware or bots.
Malware is malicious software used to disrupt computer operations, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems.
Bots involve the co-ordination and operation of automated attacks, spamming large amounts of content on the Internet, usually adding advertising links.
None of the seeming advertising that was being posted to my blog today could have had any interest to my readers.
I opened none of the links, thankfully. But while Google and Blogger have blocked all these attempts today, I still received email notices for every effort, with the links that failed to get through.
I am anxious to protect the small number of true readers of this blog, and to ensure that when you access these pages your computer is not infected with bots or malware. I pay careful attention each day to posted comments and delete any that have links to advertising that seems dangerous, malicious, distasteful, or that link to sites that run counter to the values I want to promote and encourage.
In particular, I delete comments and links that are racist, sexist, violent, homophobic, misogynist, pornographic and fascist. If anything slips through, let me know, please. When others are offensive, I can be ruthless.
Some readers have protested to others about how I have shared editorial comments or leaders from The Irish Times, and have said to others they wanted them removed … yet they demand freedom of speech for themselves.
I have resisted adding Captcha or similar software to this site because I want to encourage comments from real readers rather than making it more difficult for them. But I may have to do so sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, I am delighted if this blog attracts more readers, but only if they are real readers. I feel sorry for the poor minions who designed the malware and bots that were intended to attack this site today – and with it, my laptop too.
And if one or two people were also taking offence at my remarks last month about Edward Snowden, or what The Irish Times has to say about women bishops, then they need to reconsider their priorities. And I am delighted that this blog passed the 1,111,111 mark in terms of page views on Sunday [29 December 2013].
3, Beach walks at home
I continued finding joy in my regular beach walks, at home and abroad, with walks this year on beaches and by the sea in Ardmore, Bettystown, Bray, Carlingford, Donabate, Dugort, Dún Laoghaire, Greystones, Howth, Inishbiggle, Keel, Keem, Kilcoole, Laytown, Malahide, Mulranny, Portmarnock, Portrane, Rush, Skerries, Sutton and Tramore.
There were walks in the Phoenix Park and rambles through the grounds of Kilruddery House, walks along the cliff walk between Bray Head and Greystones, and country walks in Ballinrobe, Cong and Connemara, and Kilmacanogue. There were walks by the River Boyne in Navan, the River Lee in Cork, along the banks of the Dodder in Rathfarnham, the Barrow in Goresbirdge, the Nore in Kilkenny, the Liffey in Dublin, and by the shores of lakes in Cavan and Connemara.
There were visits to castles including Ashtown Castle in the Phoenix Park, Ashford Castle in Connemara, Dublin Castle, Gormanston Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Malahide Castle and Strokestown House, and to interesting archaeological sites at Ardmore, Ballinrobe, Callan, Carlingford, Duleek and Kilcash. I was in Kilkenny about ten times during the year, for book launches, meetings of the USPG/Us boards, the clergy conference, talks with the Moravian church, a cathedral concert, church history field trips and lectures, and family visits.
I was back in Achill twice this year, once for a quick overnight visit in February, and then in May to speak twice at the Heinrich Böll weekend, which was also a celebration of the 70th birthday of the poet John F Deane.
In tiny Holy Trinity Church on the tiny island of Inishbiggle, I spoke of the history of the Church of Ireland community; in Bunacurry, I spoke about the poet as theologian and the theologian as poet.
4, Return visits to England
I was back in England half a dozen times this year. My Easter retreat in Lichfield Cathedral, where I followed the daily cycle of prayer and liturgy, was good for body and soul, spirit and mind, and was back again later in the year.
I stayed each time in the Hedgehog on Stafford Road, and enjoyed regular walks into the cathedral along Beacon Street, walks in Beacon Park, around Minster Pool and Stowe Pool, and in countryside out along Cross in Hand Lane. There was time to meet friends, for meals and to read.
I had two visits to Cambridge this year. After an absence of a year, it was good to return to the annual summer school at Sidney Sussex College organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. The summer school also included a one-day retreat at Saint John’s Orthodox Monastery near Tolleshunt Knights.
In Cambridge, there was time to visit old friends in Saffron Walden, and for walks to Grantchester and Trumptington, along the Cam and by the boathouses.
I visited theological colleges in Oxford and Nottingham, including Ripon College Cuddesdon, Wycliffe Hall and Saint John’s College, to compare notes with colleagues teaching in the same areas.
While I was at the annual conference of Us (formerly USPG) in High Leigh, I added on time for country walks near Broxbourne and Hoddesdon and along the Lea Valley in Hertfordshire and Essex, and walks around Bishop’s Stortford, photographing the parish church and historical buildings.
I also stayed at the guesthouse attached to the Anglican Communion Office in London while I attended a staff day at the Us (USPG) offices in London.
5, Holidays in Italy and Greece
I spent a week in Italy in July, visiting Sorrento, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Mount Vesuvius, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Capri, although I never managed to get to Naples.
Later in the summer, I was back in Rethymnon in Crete, staying again in Pepi Studios in the heart of the old city.
There were trips into the olive groves and the mountains above the city, visits to monasteries and churches, visit to exhibitions in Rethymnon and Iraklion, lazy hours by the beach and the pool, and long, lingering , and delightful meals with friends.
6, Church-based activities
I preached and celebrated in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. I also preached on Remembrance Day in the chapel of the King’s Hospital, Dublin. I was invited to preach in Annagh Parish Church, Belturbet, Co Cavan; the Chapel of the Mageough Home in Rathmines; Rathgar Methodist Church; Saint Ann’s Church, Dawson Street; Tullow Parish Church, Carrickmines; and the Unitarian Church, Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, where I preached during the 150th anniversary celebrations on ‘Being an Anglican in a Pluralist World’ and spoke later in the year at The Irish Times annual memorial service.
I was the Chaplain at the Porvoo Consultation in Dublin in April 2004; spoke at the annual conference of Affirming Catholicism Ireland.
I attended ordinations in Belfast and Dublin for the dioceses of Connor, Down and Dromore, Dublin and Glendalough and Meath and Kildare; the installation of the new Dean’s Vicar in Cork; and the institution of a new rector in Rahney.
In Whitechurch parish, Rathfarnham, as part of the centenary commemorations of the 1913 lockout, I spoke with Archbishop Michael Jackson and former Irish Times colleague Padraig Yeates at a seminar recalling the role played by the Revd Robert Malcolm Gwynn in the formation of the Irish Citizen’s Army.
During Heritage Week in August, I was invited to lecture on Saint Doulagh’s Church, Balgriffin, on Celtic Spirituality, and in Saint Lachtain’s Church, Freshford, Co Kilkenny, on the history and architecture of the church.
I continue to serve on the boards of Us in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and as a member of the Council of Us in Britain, taking part in the council meeting in High Leigh; visiting the Us offices in London for staff day; attending the meeting of the Us trustees in Dublin, which included a special Choral Evensong in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and dinner in the Chapter House in Christ Church Cathedral; and bringing Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland and senior Us staff on a walking tour of Dublin.
I renewed my engagement with the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission (DUFEM) during the visit to Dublin of Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong, meeting him the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where he preached, and attending a special dinner in his honour in Christ Church Deanery in Dublin.
As well as my retreat during Easter Weekend at Lichfield Cathedral, I was at an Ash Wednesday retreat in Manresa House, Clontarf, and spent a day at the Orthodox Monastery of Saint John in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex.
I remain a member of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, a member of the Council for Christian Unity and Dialogue and the Anglican Affairs Working Group, I am a participant in the dialogue between the Church of Ireland the Moravian Church, and I have been asked to chair the Arts Committee at Christ Church Cathedral. I have also been appointed Visiting Lecturer in Anglicanism in the Meter Dei Institute.
7, Publications and broadcasts:
It was particularly satisfying to see dissertations I had supervised going to publication this year.
This year I was invited to contribute to the Lichfield Gazette, writing about architecture, the arts and local history. I wrote for the Jesuit journal Studies, and I continue to write each month for the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel, Ferns and Leighlin), and I write occasionally for The Irish Times, the Church of Ireland Gazette and in the US for Koinonia, which is published in Kansas, Missouri.
Other publications this year include:
“Josiah Hort (1674?-1751), Bishop of Ferns: ‘A Rake, a Bully, a Pimp, or Spy’ and ‘Bp Judas’,” in the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society, No 24 (2012-2013), pp 94-114;
“Comerford Monuments in Callan and the Search for a Family’s Origins,” Chapter 2 (pp 23-39) in Callan 800 (1207-2007) History & Heritage, Companion Volume, ed Joseph Kennedy (Callan: Callan Heritage Society);
“Bale’s Books and Bedell’s Bible: Early Anglican Translations of Word and Liturgy into Irish,” in Salvador Ryan and Brendan Leahy (eds), Treasures of Irish Christianity, Volume II, A People of the Word (Dublin: Veritas), pp 124-128;
“‘Thou my high tower’: The Celtic Revival and Hymn Writers in the Church of Ireland” in Ryan and Leahy (eds), Treasures of Irish Christianity, Volume II, A People of the Word (Dublin: Veritas), pp 203–206.
8, Television and broadcasting work
George Hook interviewed me on his radio show following my address as President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at Irish CND’s annual Hiroshima Day commemorations in Merrion Square, Dublin.
Vincent Browne invited me to be a panellist with Professor Salvador Ryan and the Revd Corinna Diestelkamp on Episode 4 of Challenging God, ‘Martin Luther – the Protestant Reformation’ (Sunday 25 August).
The episode of Who do you think you are?, in which I helped Dervla Kirwan trace her Jewish ancestry, was shown again on RTÉ two days later on 27 August 2013, and was repeated on other channels around the world.
I also took part in Neal Delamere’s television mixture of history and comedy, There’s Something About Patrick which was shown on RTÉ in March. It was partly filmed in Christ Church Cathedral and in Trinity College Dublin.
9, Ending the year
This was a year when I attended concerts by Leonard Cohen in Dublin in September and by Neil Hannon (aka The Divine Comedy) in Kilkenny.
This year also marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Greek poet CP Cavafy in Alexandria on 29 April 1863 and the 80th anniversary of his death on 29 April 1933, and I was invited to speak in the Greek school in Dublin on his life and on his poetry.
This was the year for anniversaries remembering Verdi, Wagner, John F Kennedy, CS Lewis, Benjamin Britten, and Dr Who. This was the year we said farewell to Nelson Mandela, Seamus Deane, Sean Freyne, Margaret Thatcher, Doris Lessing, Colm Murray, Alec Reid, Geza Vermes, Jerome Murphy O’Connor, Marcella Pattyn, John Taverner, Lou Reed, Peter O’Toole, Inez MCormack, Iain Banks, Sean Hogan, Seán Mac Connell and David Coleman.
10, Funny ... or not so funny
Politically, the funniest photograph of the year might have been one in The Times of the UKIP leader Nigel Farage in front of a microphone at a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party. I say might have been with caution, because it makes one fear the reasons some Tories could even consider extending an invitation to a right-wing leader, who admires Enoch Powell and who has been accused of singing Hitler Youth songs with glee in his younger days ... perhaps into a mic just like this.
At an innocent level it reminded me of a Father Ted episode involving a window that needed cleaning. But even that serves as a reminder of how the Tories need to clean up their act, for it is listening to the likes of Nigel Farage that has raised a storm among their troops about relaxed immigration regulations for Bulgarians and Romanians.
But I have decided to end my end-of-year review instead on a seasonal note. The Revd John Galbraith Graham, who died in 2013, was known for many years as Araucaria and for his creative crosswords in the Guardian. His clues often included long anagrams, with his favourite appearing in a Christmas puzzle:
O hark the herald angels sing the boy’s descent which lifted up the world.
It was an anagram for “While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground.”
But the best example of his brilliance in clue-setting is:
Poetical scene has surprisingly chaste Lord Archer vegetating (3, 3, 8, 12)
It was a clue to “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester,” the title of a poem by Rupert Brooke. The anagram was a topical reference to Jeffrey Archer who had become the owner of the vicarage and was lying low there at the time following a sex scandal.
It was a surprisingly good year for Irish cricket and a devastating year for English cricket. Once again, I did not see enough rugby this year, or enough cricket ... apart from a Saturday afternoon in Grantchester.
I am sorry to say it was not goodbye to Sarcoidosis this year, or Goodbye to the join pains and balance problems the come with severe Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
So, it is goodbye to Grantchester, goodbye to the bailout, goodbye to Trapattoni, goodbye to 2013. Have a happy New Year in 2014.
The most acclaimed picture by a Greek painter depicting the Christmas tradition of singing carols is Carols by the 19th-century Greek painter Nikiphoros Lytras, who is regarded as the “Founder and Patriarch” of modern Greek art. This painting is simple in its austerely and is in sensitive manner, heavy with symbolism and with disarming sincerity. It is one of the major works of art depicting Greek life, customs and traditions.
Nikiphoros Lytras (Νικηφόρος Λύτρας, 1832-1904) was born in 1832 in Pyrgos on the Greek island of Tinos, the son of a popular marble sculptor. At the age of 18, he went to Athens to train at the School of Arts, where he studied painting with Ludwing Thierch and Raffaelo Ceccoli. In 1855-1856, he assisted Thiersch in the decoration of the Saviour’s Russian Orthodox Church in Athens.
After Lytras graduated in 1856, he began teaching a course in Elementary Writing. In 1860, he won a Greek government scholarship to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich, where studied under Karl von Piloty. He was accepted into Piloty’s class after passing the German professor’s stringent requirements. As Piloty’s student, Lytras focused on the history of painting, and his subjects were inspired by Greek mythology and history.
Lytras’s scholarship was danger of coming to an abrupt end in 1862 with the Greek coup that overthrew King Otto. However, after a coup in 1862, King Otto was sent into exile the scholarship came to an end for Lytras, but the Greek Ambassador in Vienna, Simon Sinas, continued to take care of his expenses of his studies.
In the summer of 1865, Lytras met the Greek painter Nikolaos Ghyzis (Νικολάου Γύζη, 1842-1901), in Munich. Ghyzis was also born in Tinos, and together they visited and studied many great European masterpieces.
Later that year, Lytras returned to Greece, and in 1866 he was appointed a professor at the School of Arts in the Technical University in Athens, a position he held until his death. Many of his students, including Georgios Iakovidis (1853-1932), Periklis Pantazis (1849-1888) and Georgios Roilos (1867-1928), became distinguished artists.
In 1873 and for four years he travelled to Smyrna and Asia Minor, Munich and Egypt with his friend Nikolaos Ghyzis.
After his return to Greece, he gave most of his attention to scenes from Greek everyday life and to portrait painting, reflecting the ideology of the ruling class of the time. His most famous portrait is of the royal couple, Otto and Amalia and his best-known landscape is a depiction of the region of Lavrio.
His travels in Minor Asia and Egypt enriched his paintings with dark-skinned children and other elements of Anatolia.
In 1879, he married Irene Kyriakidi, the daughter of a trader in Smyrna, and they had six children, including the actor Lysandros Lytras (1885-1921) and the successful painters Nikolaos Lytras (1883-1927) and Perikles Lytras (1888-1940).
In later life, he founded the ‘Art Group,’ which later exhibited in Paris in 1919 and whose members included the engraver Demetrios Galanis, a friend of Derain, Braque and Picasso and a member of the French Academy.
In the last period of his life, Lytras painted many scenes about aging, loneliness and the fear of death. He was decorated with the Greek Golden Cross of Saviour. After a short illness brought about by inhaling the toxic fumes from the chemicals substances in the colours he used for painting, Nikiphoros Lytras died at the age of 72 on 13 June 1904 in Athens.
He was succeeded at his post by one of his students, Georgios Iakovidis. His son Nikolaos Lytras followed in his footsteps, studying in Munich and heading the School of Art in Athens.
This morning’s painting is in oil on canvas and measures 90 × 59 cm (35.4 × 23.2 in), and the signature in the bottom left reads: ‘Ν. Λυτρασ’. It was painted in 1872 and is now in a private collection.
Greek Christmas carols or calanda are a very old custom that remains practically unchanged to this day. Children, in groups of two or more, still go from house to house singing carols, usually accompanied by the triangle or guitars, accordions or harmonicas, knocking on each door and asking: “Shall we say them?”
If the homeowner answers yes, the children sing the carols for several minutes before finishing with the wish: “And for the next year, many happy returns.” In the past, homeowners gave the children holiday sweets and pastries, but today they usually give them some money.
The carols are sung on Christmas Eve, today, New Year’s Eve, and on 5 January, the Eve of Epiphany, and they are different for each holiday.
The word calanda stems from the Latin calenda, which means “the beginning of the month.”
Greek New Year’s Eve Carol:
First of the month and first of the year
My tall rosemary
Let our good year begin
Church with the holy throne
It is the beginning when Christ
Holy and spiritual
Will walk on earth
And cheer us up
Saint Basil is on his way
And will not deign on us
You’re a Lady milady.