Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.16

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Greece has nominated Momoeria, New Year’s celebration in eight villages of Kozani area, West Macedonia, Greece (No. 01184) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

From 25 December to 5 January in Kozani (north-western Greece), dancers, actors and musicians can be seen performing in village streets and visiting people’s homes to celebrate the coming of the new year. The Momoeria dancers, a group made up of 30 male performers, are a special focus. They represent the priests of Momos (god of laughter and satire) or commanders of Alexander the Great wearing helmets, pleated skirts, traditional shoes and brandishing sticks dancing under their leader’s command to convince the powers of nature not to endanger the livelihood of villagers. Actors surround the dancers performing a well-known satirical play featuring characters like an old man and the devil (this can vary among villages) whom the audience is invited to tease, creating a fun atmosphere. Instruments like the bagpipe play in the background. The practice is mainly to wish the community prosperity in the year ahead, including healthy offspring and good harvests but now also encourages the sustainable management of natural resources. Festivities culminate in the town square with everyone singing and dancing around a fire until morning. Transmitted informally from older to younger generations, it symbolizes part of the community’s cultural identity and helps to facilitate social integration.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The file demonstrates that Momoeria is a deep-rooted practice that serves as an identity marker for Greeks of Pontian origin and serves as affirmation of social cohesion among groups of its bearers and wider communities concerned. Knowledge of the element and its practices are handed down orally through the generations, thus enriching collective memory and the youth with Greek-Pontian culture. Sufficient information has also been provided to ascertain the element’s compatibility with human rights instruments, sustainable development and mechanisms promoting mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals;

R.2:   The inclusion of Momoeria on the Representative List is likely to raise the awareness of similar practices in other parts of the world as elements of intangible cultural heritage. It is also likely to foster awareness of the importance of safeguarding, encouragement of dialogue and the promotion of cultural diversity and human creativity, locally and beyond. Inscription would also promote dialogue among communities that bear similar components, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity;

R.3:   The Pontic Greeks have kept the Momoeria tradition alive, at times under very difficult circumstances, with national support from 2014. The proposed safeguarding measures (research, documentation, production of musical instruments, and introducing the element in school activities) have been principally designed to be implemented by villagers’ associations with State support. Concerns about possible decontextualization and negative effects of mass tourism have been taken into account;

R.4:   The submitting State Party has convincingly shown that community participation – if not authorship – informed the nomination process from the outset. A wide range of stakeholders concerned, including associations of the eight villages, provided free, prior and informed letters of consent expressing their own feelings and views on the element, its transmission and viability. There is no customary practice that restricts access to the element;

R.5:   The file presents the inscription of the element on the Hellenic Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2015. Inventorying was carried out in close cooperation with communities, other stakeholders and national agencies. The institution responsible for the inventory is the General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture.

  1. Inscribes Momoeria, New Year’s celebration in eight villages of Kozani area, West Macedonia, Greece on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the submitting State that documentation activities proposed for a location outside of its own territory requires permissions from relevant communities and authorities and underlines that these should not be construed to lead to safeguarding measures in these locations.