Travel

Fat Suits and 'Je Suis Charlie' Pins at Greek Halloween

Ragoutsaria has its roots in ancient Dionysian rituals and is supposed to scare the evil spirits away.

by Alexandros Katsis, Words: Maria Louka
16 January 2015, 12:56pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

Every January, the town of Kastoria in Northern Greece experiences its own version of Halloween. Ragoutsaria is a three day carnival, during which people dress up as animals or as the opposite sex and then drink and dance in the streets till the early hours of the morning.

Ragoutsaria is said to have its roots in an ancient Dionysian ritual – the Rural Dionysia which would take place in Attica after the feast of the Nativity of the Sun, on December 25. It is assumed that its name comes from the Latin word 'rogatores', which means 'beggars' because those in costume tour the village, knocking on people's doors asking for treats in exchange for scaring away the evil spirits. If the evil spirits are successfully driven away, then the year's crop is expected to be fruitful.

And so this year, on the 6th and 7th of January, people of all ages took to the streets of Kastoria with a bottle of wine or raki in hand. Some were holding placards with slogans referring to the upcoming elections in Greece, while others wore "Je suis Charlie" pins. Everyone danced and sang together to the sounds of the many brass bands until their feet were covered in blisters.

On the third and last day of Ragoutsaria, those who were still standing marched noisily on the streets of the town along with students from local schools. But I was already in bed nursing my hangover.