Icaria turns down public holiday

A small group of civil servants on the Aegean island of Icaria decided not follow their colleagues in the rest of Greece and take the leave the government had offered for the funeral of Archbishop Christodoulos on Thursday, it emerged yesterday. The vast majority of public services in Greece were shut for the funeral but the public officials on Icaria, an island known for doing things its own way, took a stand against the decision to give bureaucrats the day off. «Civil servants are the employees of the state, not the Church,» said the municipal staff in the village of Raches in a statement. «The death of a Church leader cannot and should not lead to a holiday in the public sector.» The mayor of Raches, Fanourios Karoutsos, insisted that the employees made the decision on their own. But he supported their stance. «There are some serious questions: Why should only some people have the chance to mourn? Why should you have the day off if you cannot go to the funeral?» he told Kathimerini. «The decision [to give civil servants the day off] might have some logic in Athens but in regional areas, it has none.» Icaria’s residents are renowned for keeping unique business hours that see all kinds of stores and services open at night instead of during the day. Although the sight throws visitors off, locals say it is part of their way of life. «We are not slackers, as some people try to portray us,» said Karoutsos. «It’s just that we are at the opposite end of being vain. We do not believe in stress for its own sake nor in catering to artificial needs.» More than 8,000 people live on the small island, which is known for its rare flaura and fauna as well as its thermal springs.