Arapides of Monastiraki

If you are up to a really early start for the day, check this one out
Photography / Text: George Tatakis

I was only informed about this early morning start the night before. I was having the traditional hot soup with casserole goat in the commencing event of the Pagan Carnivals of the place. Was asking around to see where I should be going to the day after, as I had arrived in Drama on the 5th. 

I was already in Monastiraki, since this is the place where it all begins. I had also travelled all afternoon around the villages to get a feeling of the distances and the different places I was about to visit during the customs.

What I learned, was that in Monastiraki, Arapides start visiting houses at around 6a.m. so I decided I should give it a go. Photographers love the morning light, as well as the light before and during sunset. Especially the ones interested in colours, prefer the light of the dawn, because the atmosphere is cleaner, therefore the colours more saturated. 

The last days had been rather cold, at least for Greece, and there was snow by the sides of the roads. The morning frost and fog made the scenery look real nice.

Following this custom during that time I think is the best you can do, as the first houses Arapides visit are located in the outskirts of the village and they are on rural grounds. This makes everything look more beautiful. Try to wear good shoes, maybe boots, as the path will be off road during some times and you may have to walk on muddy dirt roads for a while.

If you are willing to wake up even earlier, you may be able to catch them getting dressed. They usually do that in a certain house owned by the local cultural society.

Arapides walk around the village and have to visit every house in it, to bid good luck and prosperity to the home owners for the new year. With them, instrument players and dancers follow along, who will dance around the yards of the houses. The home owner will have offerings for the group (Cheta) to thank them, which most of the times is food and Tsipouro (alcoholic beverage made by distilled grapes). You are free to grab a bite and have a drink, as long as you too wish them luck and prosperity.

During the whole event, arapides will be banging their large pastoral bells they have attached around their waists. This is to scare away the Kallikantzaroi. These are malicious creatures found in Greek folklore. They are supposed to be living underground only to come up to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas to harm people.

Arapides also visit the cemetery to honour their deceased ones and to light their candles. After the visits are finished, a large dance is held in the village's central square.

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Location

Arapides of Monastiraki

Unnamed Road, Monastiraki 661 00, Greece
Monastiraki, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Greece