Pyrgoi (Prosotsani Municipality, Drama County)
The custom begins on the evening of 6th January, during which a vigil and a feast occur, with traditional lyra, bagpipe and “dahare” (type of a frame drum). After midnight and until dawn, young men who participate in the vigil, wear bells without the costume and wander in the village “to be heard”, to announce the festivity of the next day.
In the morning of January 7th the drowsy participants, paint their face with soot, take one or two bells and start the “stroll” of the village with musicians. They visit homes door -to-door, accepting treats and collecting local food products. Those of the householders who are stock breeders tend to offer an animal. At noon the wandering ends, having gathered the representative foods of the agro-pastoral production of the community. The performance concludes in the square, where bonfires are lit and a large table is being set up.
This is also the time when the “Arkoudiarides” (“Bear-master”) dress up, under the supervision of older performers who know how to "bind" the bells on the body. For the participants the masquerading is a ritual. They wear goatskins that cover the entire body and a head mask made of goat-pelt with holes for eyes and mouth, on which they often place goat horns. They hang the bells on their waist (“toubelekia” big bells and one larger bell called “batali”), which they choose carefully in order to produce harmonious sounds. They show up at the square, where, while bouncing, they engage in teasing, dancing and striking the bells, "for the good of the land", the awakening of the sprouting forces of nature and the prevention of evil.
At noon on January 8th a reenactment of a virtual wedding ceremony is taking place. The groom and the bride (impersonated by a man) get dressed, they begin their route in the village escorted by musicians and finally meet and end up in the square. A man disguised as a priest officiates the wedding ceremony. Then several episodes transpire: The “Arkoudiarides” attempt to steal the bride and a man masqueraded as a doctor tries to deliver her. The presence of the characters of the bride and groom and the birth process, the outcome of the marriage union, symbolizes the transposition of the fertility power of nature and the attempt to strengthen it. Meanwhile, some villagers cook the traditional stew with bulgur- cracked wheat and the meat of the animals that participants of “the stroll” had gathered the previous day. The women prepare traditional pie. The participants of the performance (“dromeno”) become fellow-diners in this communal meal and they “receive” the fertility power of the food that is produced by their land and animals. They strengthen it and then return it to nature by performing the ritualistic act (“dromeno”).