DROMENA/PERFORMANCES

Dromena (performances), we entitle the customs of folk cultures that include rituals with profound symbolisms. They are performed with the collective participation and affirmation of a community at a certain time in the annual cycle. Particularly, the customs of bell bearing are expressions of eugenic and dissuasive nature of the agro-pastoral society loaded with the fear of bad crop and the hope for a rich harvest. The climax of this load is noted in the passage from one production run to another, between the beginning of winter and beginning of spring. During this time dramatic performances with collective masquerades with masks, leathers, bells seek to appease the mysterious forces that affect the fertility of nature and to remove with deafening manner the bad demons that are blocking it. Therefore, in the origin of any performance (dromeno) we recognize the deepest tendency of the human to sacredly surround the labors on land with acts of imitation, for example, movements of plowing and sowing. The performance (dromeno) is a rite intended to protect the survival of the community, thus it is pervasive and acceptable where communities of shepherds and agrarians spread and so it has a universal nature.

Monastiraki (Drama Municipality, Drama County)
“Arapides” (Blacks) January 6
The cast of the performance-“dromeno”, called the “tseta”, consists of “Arapides” (Blacks), “Gilliges”, “Papoudes” (grandparents) and “Tsoliades”. The “Arapides” wear black pastoral cloaks that cover the entire body and impressive peaked goatskin head masks. On their waist they place three large bells, “batali” (large bells) or “kypri” (smaller bells, local name “tsianouve”), which are harmonically matched. They also hold a large wooden sword and a small bag of ashes, which they gathered during the Twelve Days of Christmas. The group of “Gilliges” (brides) are young men from the village dressed in local traditional female costumes. The “Papoudes” wear traditional festive male costume and “Tsoliades” wear “foustanella” (a traditional cotton kilt), colourful scarves on their back and a black head scarf with fringes, for headdress, that symbolized the mourning of the enslaved homeland.

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).

KALI VRYSI (Prosotsani Municipality, Drama County)
“BABOUGERA” 6-8 January

The “Babougera” come out in the village after the blessing of the waters on January 6 (Epiphany feast). They await for people outside the church and they attack them playfully, hitting them with a small bag of ashes to exorcise evil. This ash is collected from fireplaces burned during the Twelve days of Christmas. They keep teasing people on the streets, houses and taverns.

XIROPOTAMOS “Arapides” (“Blacks”) or “Arapiden” (Day of “Arapis”)

XIROPOTAMOS ( Municipality Drama , Drama County )
“Arapides” (“Blacks”) or “Arapiden” (Day of “Arapis”) 6-7 January
The group of performers of the custom of “Arapides” is called “tseta”. Main characters of the “tseta” are the “Arapides” (“arapoue”), men dressed in fleece capes (formerly with pelts) and head masks of goatskin (formerly of sheepskin). On the head, they tie a scarf and they are holding a wooden sword. On their waist they put on bells, three large “batalia” or three “kypria” (sometimes even more) matched, so that their sound is harmonic. The “tseta” complement the “Evzones” (traditional soldiers, they participate as grooms), the “Geliges” (brides), young men dressed up in the traditional female attire of the region and the “Mangoudes” (“mangouftse”, clowns). “Mangous” wears white clothes, a black sock on his head with holes for eyes and nose, small bells on his waist, have a fake hump and keeps a bag with ashes from the Twelve Days of Christmas and a wooden walking stick. Head of the team is “tsetabasia”, a man not in disguise, holding a shepherd’s crook. He is responsible for organizing the team, communicating with the musicians, their payment and the fundraising.

Volakas (Nevrokopi Municipality, Drama County)
“HARAPIA”(Blacks) – “ARKOUDES”(Bears) 6-8 January
On the morning of 6th January, after the blessing of the waters, the residents of Volaka perform the custom of “bara”. Groups of men singing to the accompaniment of bagpipe and “dahare” (type of a frame drum) lead the last year’s newlyweds to the water tank where the sanctification took place and pass them through the water to enhance their fertility and bless their descendants, as future members of the community.

NIKISIANI (Municipality Pangaio, Kavala County)
“ARAPIDES” (BLACKS) January 7

The “Arapides” are male performers who wear black woven capes, woven leggings called “kaltsounia” and pig-skin shoes called “tservoulia”. They strap the shoes on the shins with leather strips (“lapares”). On their back they create a fake hump. They cover the head with a tall, conical cover made of black goat-pelt, the “barbota”, upon which they tie a silk girdle (“tsevre”). In earlier times the betrothed men added to it a scarf that had been embroidered by their fiancée. They keep wooden swords, called “maheres” (big knives) and hang on their waist with a rope four large bells: one hammered “batali” at front – on the right and three cast bells, “tsania”, one on the left–at front and two on the rear. The bells are carefully selected to create a harmonious sound.

Anthi (Nigrita Municipality, Serres County)

“Baboogeroi” Cheesefare Sunday, Ash/Clean Monday

In the performance (“dromeno”) called “Baboogeroi” young people of the village participate and wear black or brown processed goat-pelts and hang five bells around their waist, one large “batali” and four smaller ones “kypria”. Over the shoulder they wear a shawl, decorated with gold coins, golden ribbons and fringes. On the head they put on the “Babousarka” a black peaked head mask that covers the face and is over one meter tall. It is decorated on the front, with rows of colourful beads, ribbons and fringes, whereas on top there are colourful scarves.

PETROUSA (Prosotsani Municipality, Drama County)
“BABIDEN” 6-8 January

The “dromeno”/performance, “Babiden”, holds its name from the former celebration of the day of the midwife which was on January 8. The main characters are the "Harapides" (Blacks), men in goat-like disguise: they wear goat pelt, goatskin headdress with custom goat horns, paint the face with soot and tie bells over the shoulders (two large ones called “batalia” at the front and four on the rear called “kypria”) which they choose carefully as to produce harmonious sounds. With fast bounces they cause loud bell sounds, to chase away evil spirits and awake the sprouting forces of nature.

Flampouro (Nigrita Municipality, Serres County)
“Baboogeroi” Cheesefare Sunday, Ash/Clean Monday

The “Baboogeroi” are young villagers that wear black or brown processed goat-pelts and hang five bells on their waist, one large bell called “batali” and three smaller called “kypria” and tie a scarf on top. On their heads they put the “Babousarka” a black, peaked head mask that covers the face and is over one meter tall. It is decorated on the front, with rows of colourful beads and ribbons and on the top there are colourful scarves.

Sochos (Lagkadas Municipality, Thessaloniki County)
“Meriou” Cheesefare Saturday-Ash/Clean Monday
The bell bearers of Sochos are called “Meriou”. Masqueraded group of friends roam the streets of the village walking rhythmically, bouncing and shaking their bells to awaken the sprouting forces of nature. It's mostly men, but nowadays several women and children dress up. Internally they wear shirts with cuffs, that is, colourful knitted edgings of the sleeves and a white shirt with folded sleeves so the cuffs would be visible. In the past women tried to make a particular pattern of cuffs to recognize in the crowd each of them, her husband. Afterwards, they wear pants and sleeveless coat of goat-pelt with black fur, thick woollen socks and leather rustic shoes. A red woven belt which is placed crosswise on the shoulders supports the bells at the waist. On the chest they put a knitted shawl with bright colours (mostly red). They cover their head with “kalpaki”, which consists of the facemask and the head mask. It’s made of black woollen cloth, called “sagiaki”. The facemask is decorated with multi-coloured circular thin braids and put hair from a horse's tail for whiskers. On the forehead it bears an embroidered cross. The “kalpaki” ends up in tall conical head mask with colourful paper ribbons and a fox tail on top. The masqueraders hold in their hands a walking stick and a bottle of ouzo. The bells are five creating a “dozen” as they call it: a large wrought one (“batali”) that is tied at the waist and back and four cast bells (“kypria”), two on the rear and two at the front, in a size order from largest to smallest. They are selected with special care to be “matched” to produce harmonious sounds with different pitch of cast bells and the “bass” tone, as they say, to be kept from the wrought bell. Every father believes it’s his moral obligation to provide for his son a good “dozen”. Indeed, we find the “dozens” among the items included in wills. The dressing of “Meriou” is done ​​with the help of a few loved ones. At the end of they wish health and a good yield. The mother, grandmother or wife sprinkles him with a little water from a metal container and pours the rest down she wishes “as the water flows, thus, may your road be free", a common practise at goodbyes.

Skyros (Skyros Municipality, Euboea County)
“Geroi” (Old men) and “Koreles” (Girls) - Last Sunday of Carnival
The characters that dominate the carnival of Skyros are those of the “Geros”, the “Korela” and the “Frangos”. The “Geros” wears the typical woolen cape of shepherds turned upside down, with the hairy side outward, an element that in conjunction with the mask made of small animal´s pelt that covers the face, gives him a distinct ferocity. The hood of the cape, fastened with a belt, covers the head, and the costume is completed with woollen pants (“kontovratsi”), white woven socks and typical shepherd´s leather sandals, called “trochadia”. In his back he puts rags or an old pillow that gives the impression of a hump. On one hand he holds a wooden curved shepherd´s stick and on the other a bag with flour or bran, necessary for his encounter with the people on the way to the square. But what spreads fear and awe in his passage is the sound of 50-60 bells that are fastened with wooden hoops placed through a rope, the “litari”, to hang freely and thunder as he moves rhythmically through the narrow streets of the island. The interpretations of the origins of this masquerade vary. Legend has it that a reckless shepherd appeared in the village square, dressed in animal pelts that perished in heavy winter, loaded with the bells of the flock and accompanied by his wife dressed in rags. Most likely, however, is the interpretation that its roots go deeper than that and are associated with Dionysian fertility rituals.

GERGERI (Rouva Municipality, Heraklion County)
“ARKOUDIARIDES” – “APOKRIGIOMATA” Ash Monday

The “Arkoudiarides” (Bear-masters) are the main characters of Gergeri´s “dromena”-performances, of the “apokrigiomata” (carnival). The process of masquerade is a ritual performed in a playful atmosphere, accompanied by the sounds of lyra (string instrument) and Cretan lute, beverages, food and banters. Young men, and nowadays also women, wear white sheep’s skins covering the front and back torso. On their waist they hang hammered goat bells and paint their faces black with soot from the cooking pots (“mouzonontai”). Their leader, the “arkoudiaris”, wears old clothes, paints his face black and keeps a “vitsa” (a branch stripped of its leaves).

Pyrgoi (Prosotsani Municipality, Drama County)
6-8 January

“DAVANISKA”
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.

“BABIDEN”
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.