Everyone loves a festival and sometimes it seems that any excuse for a celebration will do. You’ll find some rather strange festivals all over the world and Greece is no exception: from a “war between churches” to gender role changing there is something that will make you rise an eyebrow- if not both. Here are five of them:
1. Rouketopolemos, Vrontados, Chios
Easter tends to be a noisy event in Greece because people like to celebrate with fireworks. In Vrontados, on the island Chios, this is taken to the next level with the ‘rocket war’. Two churches, each standing on a hilltop, celebrate at midnight before Easter Sunday by launching rockets at each other’s belfry. The winner is declared the next day when the number of direct hits to each rival belfry is counted.
2. Popular Court Punishing Immoral Deeds, Karpathos
Clean Monday, also known as Ash Monday, marks the start of Lent and is celebrated all over the country. Many of these celebrations involve rather bizarre rituals but one of the weirder ones is the Popular Court Punishing Immoral Deeds held on Karpathos. The villagers are divided into ‘perpetrators’ who insult others and exchange obscene gestures, the ‘police’ who ‘arrest’ them and the ‘judges’, elders who then dole out punishment.
3. Bourani, Tyrnavos
The village of Tyrnavos has another not-so-clean way of celebrating Clean Monday. Bourani has its roots in Dionysian rites and naturally involves lots of drinking, dancing and … celebrating the male member. Phallic symbols are everywhere, even in the drinking vessels, and in the center of town there’s a throne shaped like a you-know-what. The songs and jokes you’ll hear on this day are not exactly suited for children either.
4. Gynaikokratia, Thracia
At least half the population will argue that Gynaikokratia isn’t a weird festival but rather shows how things should be every day. On 8 January, traditional gender roles are reversed. The women get to hang out in the village taverns or coffee houses, doing the important job of singing, dancing, drinking and generally being merry, while the men stay at home, engaging in those unimportant activities like cooking, cleaning and looking after the children. Monoklisia, Petra and Charopo are some of the best places to join in the celebration of the rule of women.
5. Anastenaria, Northern Greece
The villages of Ayia Eleni, Kerkine, Langadas, Mavrolefke and Melike have a rather fiery way to celebrate the saints’ day of Saint Constantine, known locally as Saint Konstantinos. The villagers, whose ancestors brought the custom from Thrace, place icons and offerings in shrines known as konaki. They spend the evening of 20 May dancing and singing. The next day, the Day of Saint Constantine, animals are ritualistically slaughtered and the people are blessed with holy water. In the evening they light a huge fire around which they dance, carrying their icons. When the fire has burnt down sufficiently, a fire pit is made. Then individuals take turns to dance barefoot across the glowing coals, while Saint Constantine protects them from getting burnt. Some devotees may even kneel down beside the fire pit and pound the fiery ashes with their bare hands. The ritual continues for as long as the coals and ashes are hot.
So here you go! These are five holidays in Greece you probably never heard about and will most likely want to enjoy some day! With plenty of low cost flights heading there and companies like Thomas Cook holidays offering great deals there is no reason why should not be there someday.
What other weird festivals in Greece or elsewhere do you know of? Share them with us in the comments section below!