This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.
Greece's most grotesque custom takes place once a year on the first Monday of Lent, in the plain of Thessaly. Walk into the town of Tirnavos that day and all you'll see are people chasing and hitting each other in the streets with fake penises.
The custom is called "Bourani"—like the vegetable soup being boiled in a large cauldron in the middle of the town square. Townspeople and visitors from the nearby villages eat, drink, and sing songs full of profanity until they faint.
Like pretty much every Greek custom, Burani seems to have its roots in ancient Dionysian rituals symbolizing the coming of Spring and fertility—both in humans and in nature. The penis was probably chosen as the symbol of this strange celebration in reaction to the matriarchal society of the time.
In recent years, the festivities seem to be more focused on crude humor than sexual liberation. Dummy penises made of wood, paper, clay, or sugar seem to cover every possible surface—on tables and benches, next to packs of Marlboros, mobile phones, and kebab shops. Some are placed at crossroads like totem sculptures, while others get stuck on open zippers. People keep kissing them, taking selfies with them, and wearing them as earrings. Everyone swears at each other constantly.
Burani is basically one last day of filth before Lent. Starting Tuesday, and for the next 40 days, life in Tirnavos is supposed to be all about fasting and praying. Or so the custom says.
Here are some photos from the festivities that took place in Tirnavos this past Monday.