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Theophany celebrations in 52 prefectures

Ragoutsaria, Photourades, Arapides and other traditions

Ragoutsaria, Photourades, Arapides and other traditions
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Click to see how Theophany day is celebrated all over the country...

Theophany is a traditional Ψhristian celebration in remembrance of Christ's baptism in the Jordan river by St John the Baptist. It might be the same date for everybody, but the way it is celebrated in Greece differs significantly as different customs and traditions make up the mosaic of our popular culture.

Ragoutsaria in Kastoria

It is a 3-day carnival celebration, starting on the 6th, with Santa Claus giving gifts to children, and ends on the 8th of January. Its roots are in ancient Dionysian celebrations, reaching us through Rome and Byzantium, and the name is associated with Gypsies, from the Latin Rogatores.

Specifically, the people of Kastoria dress up and accompanied by music and wine, ask for gifts from the households in reciprocation for their contribution in driving away the evil spirit. They dress up as animals (cows, deer, goats, camels) and some change their gender. The last day is characteristic, known as «pateritsa» or «pataritsa» since after the celebrations the costumes are put away  in the attic (patari in Greek) for next year.

Fotarades, Kamila and Foutaroi in Chalkidiki

The Fotarades custom, starting on Theophany day, is revived in Palaiokastro of Chalkidiki. A team of carolers choose their king and go to the church together, where the new head is makes three repentances on the image of St Athanasios, asking for his blessing. And so the Theophany celebrations start, with the singing of local carols that end with different wishes for every member of the family during the night .

On Theophany day the king, dressed in a shepherd's cape (talagani) and the Fotarades, the king's guards, dressed in local costumes and holding wooden swords, perform a circle dance in the village square. A wooden stick is placed at the center with a sausage tied to it, guarded by a foustanelas (male wearing a traditional skirt) holding a crutch. People try to break into the dance and steal the sausage but are pushed away by the wooden swords.If one's attention wavers, he receives the king's sword on their back. When someone steals the sausage the guards lay down their swords in shame and the people, happy about the humiliation of the tough king, begin to dance.

In Galatista, after the blessing of the waters, the Kamila (camel) is adorned. Six men, who sing while jangling the bells around their necks, hide under the effigy. In front of the camel are the Tzamalaroi who, holding the banner (flabouro), dance and rouse the village. The celebration ends on the 7th of January with a mock wedding, where all roles are played by men.

The Foutaroi are the stars at St. Prodromos. On Theophany eve the young men sing carols in all the households, taking in exchange meat, sausages and money. On St John's day in the village square, the Foutaroi begin to dance. In the breaks between the dancing they run to grab their bats, get back in line and resume dancing. When the rhythm finally becomes exhaustingly fast, they throw the bats in the air and start whistling as loud as they can. That whistling marks the end of the twelve days.

Arapides in Kavala and Drama


The custom of Arapides can be seen in the village of Nikissiani Kavalas; men with wild and impressive looks, dressed top-to-toe in animal fleece, have bells adorning their waists, resulting in deafening noise. According to local beliefs, Arapides were the warriors of the auriferous Paggaios, contributing largely to the success of Alexander the Great's campaign deep in Asia when with their shouting, they turned away the elephants of an Indian ruler. The custom is also revived in the villages of Drama, Monastiraki, Ksiropotamos, Petrousa, Kali Vrisi and Volakas.

Tzamalaria in Arnissa, Pella

In this custom, the focus is on a wedding. The bride is the protagonist, played by a boy accompanied by two local ποτεντατεσ, while the second central figure is the jackanapes, whom the people run away from. A procession follows, with the bride and groom at the head escorted by people wearing rural costumes and bells. The newlyweds are constantly annoyed by a goblin and in the end there is a wedding feast with local music from copper instruments.

Prodromites in Pieria

The Prodromites custom comes from the hometown of the Katafygiotes who live in Katerini, and dates back to the Ottoman occupation, in 1650. The young men of the time competed as to who will have a better costume to become leader of the group. They would start in the morning from the village church and after they received the blessing, they continued in the neighborhoods of Katafygio, singing traditional songs.


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