Sochos (Lagkadas Municipality, Thessaloniki County)
“Meriou” Cheesefare Saturday-Ash/Clean Monday
The bell bearers of Sochos are called “Meriou”. Masqueraded group of friends roam the streets of the village walking rhythmically, bouncing and shaking their bells to awaken the sprouting forces of nature. It's mostly men, but nowadays several women and children dress up. Internally they wear shirts with cuffs, that is, colourful knitted edgings of the sleeves and a white shirt with folded sleeves so the cuffs would be visible. In the past women tried to make a particular pattern of cuffs to recognize in the crowd each of them, her husband. Afterwards, they wear pants and sleeveless coat of goat-pelt with black fur, thick woollen socks and leather rustic shoes. A red woven belt which is placed crosswise on the shoulders supports the bells at the waist. On the chest they put a knitted shawl with bright colours (mostly red). They cover their head with “kalpaki”, which consists of the facemask and the head mask. It’s made of black woollen cloth, called “sagiaki”. The facemask is decorated with multi-coloured circular thin braids and put hair from a horse's tail for whiskers. On the forehead it bears an embroidered cross. The “kalpaki” ends up in tall conical head mask with colourful paper ribbons and a fox tail on top. The masqueraders hold in their hands a walking stick and a bottle of ouzo. The bells are five creating a “dozen” as they call it: a large wrought one (“batali”) that is tied at the waist and back and four cast bells (“kypria”), two on the rear and two at the front, in a size order from largest to smallest. They are selected with special care to be “matched” to produce harmonious sounds with different pitch of cast bells and the “bass” tone, as they say, to be kept from the wrought bell. Every father believes it’s his moral obligation to provide for his son a good “dozen”. Indeed, we find the “dozens” among the items included in wills. The dressing of “Meriou” is done with the help of a few loved ones. At the end of they wish health and a good yield. The mother, grandmother or wife sprinkles him with a little water from a metal container and pours the rest down she wishes “as the water flows, thus, may your road be free", a common practise at goodbyes.