Today is 26-2-2023, and the traditions of gathering, guarding, and burning cedar wood began last week in Litohoro’s areas, Municipality of Dion-Olympus , Pieria region, Greece.
Cedars are sacred trees often used in ceremonies and during times of prayer, according to ancient Greeks, this wood is also a favorite of enigmatic. So, burning cedar is a custom linked to the ancient Dionysian ceremonies.
The idea is associated with Orpheus, who lived in the Pierian Mountains and was worshiped by the people. It is also associated with the Nine Muses, who listened to the song of Orpheus.
Hence, Greeks in Litochoro try hard to revive traditions that are said to purify the region by attracting good spirits and removing negative influences, evil spirits, and bad luck. Additionally, they believe that malice and human passions are burned, and forgiveness and balance in human relationships follow.
Preparations begin in the “Bairia”, the large neighborhoods. Both young and old Greeks try hard to gather cedar and guard them in shifts every night to prevent them from being stolen from another neighborhood.
They divided themselves as companies, each company stays all around the night guarding the woods because other teams from other neighborhoods would try to still their trees.
In the end, the winner is the neighborhood that will have the biggest fire stays for the longest time.
They try to achieve the dance of profanity around the village by teasing all passers-by. until reaching the Carnival on Sunday (the day before clean Monday) night and enjoying the light of cedars in neighborhoods, which are set up around the party.
Sometimes they have so many cedar trees that they keep burning until the next day, clean Monday!
During the last week of the Greek Carnival ( Apokries ), you can disguise people teasing passers-by on the street and visit the homes of friends and relatives.
On Friday, improvised floats pass along the main road. And on Sunday night, the cedars are lit, and around the fires, locals and visitors celebrate until the morning of clean Monday, singing the ” asoiasta “, the mocking songs of Litochoro, and dance groups, hosted by the Municipality of Dion -Olympus.
The celebrations continue on Clean Monday at the Xirokambi site with kite flying, as they set a kite in the air – and then release it, is said to symbolize the freeing of the body from sin or the passing of the human soul to Heaven and God.
Then, they enjoy fasting snacks from non-meat products such as octopus, calamari, shrimp, mussels, giant beans, a special bread called ” lagana “, and taramosalata (its sauce from herring eggs).