Kladaria, in greek, means a part of a tree that grows out from the trunk or from a bough.
I was once told about fires that symbolize the fires that the shepherds lit in Bethlehem to announce the birth of Jesus, so when I started asking old men and women in villages near the place I live, I came up with the custom "Kladaries".
In northern Greece, near Kozani, there is a village named Siatista where they celebrate "Kladaries". I decided to visit it so as to document the custom. I arrived early in the morning when everybody was sleepin', so I parked my car and after having a coffee, I walked around until I got outside the village. I was hoping to find these groups of children, gathering dry grasses from the fields. Suddenly, there they were!! I immediately joined the group, while helping them to gather grasses.
They told me that every year, after the celebration of Saint Dimitrios (October 28th), their parents used to gather in "parees" (friends' group) and spread out to the fields and vineyards in order to gather dry grasses called “lozios”. Nowadays, children have stopped gathering two months before the custom and they load "lozios" on cars, instead of animals such as donkeys. They told me that their parents also used to store the grasses in the barns of each neighbourhood and open on Christmas Eve (23 of December), to set up a fire named “kladaria”.
So, after gathering enough grasses, we went to the schoolyard in order to set up their kladaria. All around Siatista, in the middle of the square of each neighbourhood, more than 30 kladaries lit up that night.
Everybody tries to build up the tallest, biggest and more impressive kladaria for his/her neighbourhood, so they decorate it with colourful balloons and/or ribbons.
The most astonishing thing for me that day was "vergi", a big, tall, naked and thic wood bole, which was placed inside a large barrel to hold the dried grasses around it.
When everything is ready, people come around and lit up one by one each kladaria, staying there until the fire fades.