Pagoneri (Nevrokopi Municipality, Drama County)
“ARAPIDES” (“Blacks”) 6th January
At dawn the performers meet up, in Lower Founts of the village, with the congregation which is returning from the blessing of the waters (Epiphany feast) and together begin, with the Arapides on the lead, their way to the village square. Accompanied by an orchestra with bagpipes and “dahare” (type of a frame drum).
The Arapides have goat-like appearance: wearing black sleeveless overcoat, head mask made of goat pelt with holes for the eyes and mouth. They hold wooden swords and bells are hanging around their waist (“kypria” small bells and “batalia” large bells), which are carefully selected to produce a harmonious sound, as the Arapides are bouncing, running or marching. This powerful, yet harmonious sound of bells is construed to prevent evil and awakens the sprouting forces of nature.
During the performers’ (masqueraders and spectators) walk and after they conclude in the village square, several episodes occur: A man is impersonating a provocative “bride”, who is protected from thieves by the Arapides. If anyone from the spectators will try to steal her they get apprehended by them. Another man is dressed as a “gypsy” and holds a fake baby. Often someone from the spectators tries to steal the baby and gets stalked by the Arapides. Another character that participates in the performance (“dromeno”) is the “hatlis”, a “doctor” with white clothes, white head mask from pigskin and a small wooden dummy horse which he rides, having it situated between his legs. He rushes to cure anyone of the participants or spectators who pretends to be sick. The presence of the characters of the bride and the baby indicates the transfer of the fertility power of nature, which is strengthened and protected with the constant surveillance of the Arapides.
After this part of the act (“dromeno”), the masqueraders and the orchestra wander the streets spreading the power of the bell sounds. They visit all the houses, dance, sing, give wishes for a good year and receive treats. In the evening members of the cast, still dressed up, assemble in a family home, where they get offered lunch “for the well-being” of its members. The Arapides take of their pelt costumes to eat, but not the bells.