Cretan ‘mantinades’. The island’s inhabitants most common way of expressing themselves…

“I’m glad to be Cretan, my word I do keep.
With mantinades I sing, with mantinades I weep.”

The people of Crete are known for their intense localism and their independent idiosyncrasy. First, they like to introduce themselves as Cretans and then as Greeks! As a very popular Cretan rhyme says: “The tradition of Crete I support with respect Wherever I go, a Crete I project.” What fascinates the tourists and guests of the island, is their daily habits that surely manage to put a smile on the face in general!

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The Cretan dialect and pronunciation is very distinct and sometimes even hard for the Greeks of other regions to comprehend fully! One thing for sure, is that you will enjoy watching the locals talk to each other for their verbal tone but also for the hand gestures that accompany the talking. In Crete, it is massively common for the inhabitants to speak between them with ‘mantinades’ (singular form – ‘mantinada’). Also popular is folk singing with ‘mantinades’ in the company of the Cretan ‘lyra’ and the ‘laouto’ – the two sacred musical instruments οf the Cretans.

So… what is a ‘mantinada’? To say it in simple words, a ‘mantinada’ consists of 15-syllable rhyming couplets in the Cretan dialect and their topic can be about absolutely anything! Whether it is something happy or something sad, whether we are talking about love, hope or death, about Crete or everyday life situations… absolutely any emotion can be put into a ‘mantinada’.

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The custom of talking or singing with a ‘mantinada’ rhyme derives from the 15th century and still remains a very strong characteristic of the Cretan daily routine. In essence, ‘mantinades’ is the art of verbal or musical expression of the locals and possibly the word derives from the Venetian matinada, which means morning song.

They are usually improvised while speaking or singing according to the given circumstance at that very moment and the whole habit has to do with poetry that has its roots deep in the Renaissance epoch. In any case, there is evidence that poetry has been known, loved and appreciated in Crete since antiquity. The fun about ‘mantinades’ is that a verse almost always elicits a response and this leads to another response and so on!

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‘Mantinades’ are very widespread across Crete & although they are always short in length they are always equally concise & to the point so that the message is communicated nice and easy! The habit of ‘mantinades’ is not exclusive to Crete but it is here especially that their production and use is maintained at the same pace as in the past with the constant creation of new ones. Even ‘mantinada’ competitions have become popular in Crete in recent years with participants of all ages.

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‘Mantinades’ are also used in traditional Cretan weddings, during which the core wedding entourage prepares and dedicates beautiful verses to the couple about their new life together, usually in a humoristic way!  Here are a couple of ‘mantinades’ translated into English about love, that we found very enjoyable. Hope you will too!

A yearning in my breast has bloomed, an ever-roaring fire,
And every beating of my heart increases my desire.”

 “’ll love you as the donkey loves its fen,
The cat its kittens and the cock his hen!”

 “You be the Internet, my baby and I’ll be your webpage
When you turn on your PC, I’ll become your homepage!”