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Introducing ‘Rakokazana’, the ultimate spirit festival of Crete

Introducing an annual, genuine Cretan tradition, the ‘rakokazana’ or ‘kazanemata’, is the process of distilling the world famous Cretan raki. Taking place between October and December, it is almost like a ritual that manifests itself after the vine harvest. An important cultural occasion for Cretans, it is also a fantastic opportunity for visitors who are in Crete during the fall season and who wish to become part of this festivity; the making of raki is celebrated far and wide on the island, bringing with it many moments of …inebriated leisure and cultural bonding.

In Crete, the sharing and social drinking of raki is considered to be a sign of politeness and friendship, as it is often part of most social gatherings. Kind of like a social…lubricant of communication, with raki the Cretans make toasts, they welcome friends and family, they make strangers feel like guests, and guests feel like royalty. Raki is inextricably linked to Cretan hospitality, a inherent quality and sentiment that begins at every Cretan home.

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Following the initial vine harvest, the leftover grapes are collected and placed in barrels in order for them to marinate in their own juices. After forty days the remaining grapes that have fermented, are prepared for the distillation process that takes place in numerous households all over the island. As the ‘kazania’ or cauldrons start to boil, the Cretans prepare for the feast that ensues following the commencement of the brewing process.

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Using any excuse for a Raki feast, the people gather round the brewers’ households to eat, drink, sing and dance. The head of the house who is in charge of the raki brew, is said to ‘kazanevei’ which means to cook the grape juices into the potent, potable result. The head of the house is the chief of the event, being responsible for following the recipe exactly as it was handed down by the previous generations.

Raki is the true spirit of the party (pun intended) and everyone begins to join in, raising their shot glasses and toasting ‘yeia mas’, in the light of the new season of Raki to come. As spirits rise even further, the participants exchange ‘mantinades’ pl., traditional Cretan poems, usually accompanied by a musician on the lyra. The dancing doesn’t take too long to begin either, turning the Rakokazana into the November fest of Crete.

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The first distillations of Raki are called ‘protoraki’ and are the strongest samples of the brew while in some villages you may be able to find other versions of the original Raki recipe, made of berries for example, called ‘mournoraki’.

Rakokazana is truly something to experience, as rarely does a visitor have the chance to get so up, close and personal with such a traditional custom. Our concierge at the Galaxy Hotel is at your service to consult you about Rakokazana further plus if you are interested in observing or taking part in this wonderful and joyous event, our friendly team can arrange for you to experience it.

And here is a relevant ‘mantinada’ that conveys the Cretan way; praising raki and living in the moment:

Γλέντα και πίνε, σύντεκνε, ρακή, του χρόνου ποιος το ξέρει
γη θα πεθάνεις, γη θα ζεις, γη θα `σαι σ` άλλα μέρη.

Have fun and drink raki, brother, as next year who knows
You may die, you may live, or you may be far away.

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