Purpuris custom

Purpuris will be visiting the houses of the village and dance around their yards. He will wish prosperity and fertility for the year to come and the house owner will treat him with food and drinks, usually Tsipouro.
Photography / Text: Michael Pappas

It was the first time I travelled to Thrace (the North-East part of Greece) to see the Dionysus custom of Purpuri.

I stayed at Didimoticho, in a hostel of the Municipality behind the biggest and most well reserved mosk in Europe that is situated in the town's square.

After I settled myself, I went out to have some lunch in the town. I sat in a cozy and beautiful small tavern. There were 2 people sitting in the table just behind me, talking for customs. I asked them if they know about the custom of Purpuri that takes place in Isaakio, 2 klm away from the town. It turned out I had been lucky as the one of the two guys was the head of the community that performed that custom!!! 

After getting from them all the necessary information, there I was, at 9 o clock the next day, drinking coffee with an 85 year old man in Isaakio, almost 2 klm from the Greek-Turkish borders. He was born and raised at that village and he told me a lot of stories related to the village and the area in general.  

At 10:00 am I headed for the Cultural community which was down the street. That was the place where the parade would start. That was the place where the 2 Purpruris were prepared.

Purpuris costume comprises of thick clothes, possibly from animals leather, with big bells in the middle, horns and a mask made from pumpkin, with a long nose and scaring. 

Everybody got ready and the parade started. In front of the parade there were the musicians, after them the Purpuris, after the Purpuris a man dressed as bride and in the end women and children dress in the traditional costum. At first, all the people pass from the church to get the priest's blessings and then everybody spread around the town's streets. It was really astonishing how many young people were participating.

People were dancing in the streets and entering the houses' front yards to wish to the landlords. Every house had small snacks and wind to offer to the visitors. Old women were waiting with impatience to see visitors coming to their houses. One old lady was waiting outside the house for the parade to pass, standing on her two canes.  

Dancing and teasing continued until the afternoon and when the participants of the parade passed from all the houses of the town, they ended up on the central square where they set up a big feast with live music. Local community had arranged so that plenty of wine and food was available.  

One can visit Didimoticho either by train or settle bus from Athens. I traveled by car with two other friends to share the expenses. I hope that next year I will find a way to go to Didimoticho again!

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Purpuris custom

Epar.Od. Didimotichou - Thouriou
Isaakion, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, Greece