Spring’s Celebrations

Spring, the time of the rebirth of nature and the emotional empowerment of man, took its name from the verb open (ανοίγνυμι-ανοίγω in Greek), the ancient Greek term “έαρ” from which the term spring equinox derives (Δορμπαράκη, 1971). The term refers to the rebirth of nature, to the “opening” of seeds and fruit trees and is closely related to life and its circle, sexual drive and fertilization. The most famous Dionysian festival was the Anthestiria that took place for three days in Athens during the month of Anthestiriona, at the end of February and the beginning of March. In all these celebrations the common element that remains to this day is one, the satirical disguise. In ancient Greece this satire was expressed with clay masks or animal skins, while some satyrs painted their faces with wine dregs and were crowned with ivy branches, the sacred plant of Dionysus, celebrating his appearance on his wheeled boat. The processions of the faithful, led by the phalluses, crowned with many branches and flowers, led by a young man smudged with smoke (Lesky, 1981). Then followed wine competitions and some customs such as the wedding of the god Dionysus with the queen-wife of the king of Athens and in the afternoons took place the well-known teasing of pedestrians with verbal insults (αι εκ των αμαξών λοιδορίαι in Greek).

This tradition eventually spread to other parts of the world through the Roman Empire, but the pagan practices were so deeply rooted that they were not completely abolished when Christianity appeared. Although people stopped worshiping the gods of Olympus, the Greek customs of dress up and celebrate in the streets remained. This customs are known by the Latin term “carnival” from the term “carnavale”, which means abstention from meat and the synonymous Greek term “Apokreo or Carnival”.

People consider it as time of feasting and carefreeness, but also as a transitional period, which can symbolically affect the expected spring vegetation. Thus, the popular events of Carnival have a special character, often projecting the ideology of an “upside down” or “inverted” world, in which values ​​and rules have been reversed, which gives the opportunity to people, for a certain period of time, to exceed the rules of daily life and this process functions as a mechanism of relaxation. Their purpose was to say goodbye to winter and its darkness and welcome spring.

It is clear that the ancient symbolisms were integrated in the Greek Orthodox folk traditions, prepared the orthodox for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. All these customs have managed to be saved with different variations in every region of Greece. The wheeled boat is the chariots in every parade, which is organized the two Sundays of Carnival, the dancing in the streets and the teasing of the pedestrians is still alive. The most famous satirical representations are:
The Momogeroi of Pontus in Macedonia
The bells of Naxos in Cyclades
The trial of Kadis – Litochoro
The sacred and the Vlach wedding
The old man and the corela in Skyros
The custom of the monk in Serres

Δορμπαράκη, Π. Χ. (1971). Επίτομον λεξικόν της αρχαίας ελληνικής γλώσσης Ετυμολογικό-Ερμηνευτικό (8η εκδ.). Αθήνα: Εστία
Lesky, A. (1985). Geschichte Der Griechischen Literatur (A.G. Tsopanakis, Trans., 5th ed.). Thesalloniki: Kyriakidis