Babiden is a three day celebration that takes place between January 6 and 8 in the village of Petroussa, near the city of Drama. I was staying in Thessaloniki, looking for customs around these days. I had found nothing on January 8, so I decided to make the 160km trip to Petroussa, since I had never been to Babiden before.
By the time I arrived in the village you could feel the tension building up as everyone was getting ready for the celebration. Some of the people in the village would dress up in goat's skin and carry large pastoral bells around their waists. The idea is to be able to scare away the kallikantzaroi (malevolent goblins found in Greek folklore who dwelve underground, only to come up during the twelve days of Christmas to bring mischief to people). The preparations were taking place inside the local cultural club.
The ones who got ready would go outside to wait so that they would leave more space to the rest. The whole preparation takes rather a long time for each one to get ready. Music by traditional instruments follows along inside the club and of course a lot of wine.
Soon after everyone was ready to go, a parade started and the "Arapides" started to march around the town banging on their bells to make noise. They even had a huge camel with them. The Camel is called "Zacharias" and lives in the village along with a dedicated veterinarian to look after her and is taken out only to march along during the custom of Babiden.
After the first round is finished, the company is gathered outside the club and starts off once more for a second round, following a different route. They will end up at the local school.
Most of the visitors have gathered in the school's yard by now, waiting for the company of Arapides to arrive. When they do, the dance starts. There is also warm stew being served and plenty of wine.
When the night falls, a bonfire is being lit so that they can dispose of the decorative branches and also to warm up the people. The fire starts at an empty plot of land attached to the school yard. Everyone helps by feeding the fire with branches.
After the fire has settled, everyone moves away the school to go back to the local club. Everything that was set up at the school yard has to go down now, because next day is a normal school day.
The night goes on inside the club and everyone comes along to dance in the Dionysian trance rhythm, have some wine and get together with other people. The party goes on until early in the morning.