Halloween 2023: The special customs throughout Greece

Halloween. It’s finally that time of the year when everyone more or less wants to banish the bad things and worries and have fun as if they were little kids. Dionysian, medieval, out of the heart, the Carnival around Greece promises, to you who want to live a special experience a three-day full of madness. Of course, when you hear “carnival” and “Halloween”, Patras immediately comes to mind as the undisputed queen of this celebration in Greece. However, carnivals in Greece are as numerous as its cities. From cosmopolitan Xanthi to the atmospheric island carnivals and the romance of Rethymnon and from the Genitsars and Boules of Naoussa to the Tyrnavian Burani, we will take you on a journey through the most important carnivals in Greece and the unique customs surrounding them.

Patras: The Carnival with almost 2 centuries of life

The Carnival of Patras is both the largest and the oldest carnival event in Greece. The Patras Carnival has its roots in the liberation of the city in 1829 and is a set of cultural events and customs that include dances, parades, hidden treasure hunts, a carnival of children, etc. A typical example of a custom associated with Halloween is Bourboulias. This exclusively Patras custom includes evening dances where the ladies come without an escort, wearing a long black dress and a mask, while they have the upper hand in the choice of their cavalier.

The carnival events begin on 17 January and run until Carnival Monday. They culminate on the last weekend of Carnival with the nightly parade of the crews on Saturday, the spectacular grand parade of floats and crews on Sunday and finally the ceremonial burning of the carnival king at the pier of Agios Nikolaos in the northern port of Patras. Stop for food and traditional flavours at “Sinialo”, for seafood at “Argo” and for a wide variety of beers at “La Bodegueta”.

Carnival in the Ionian Sea and Crete

Corfu: The Corfiot Carnival

The Zakynthos Carnival starts in mid-February with the Treasure Hunt in which everyone participates. The Picollo Carnival takes place on the main street of the town on the Sunday of Kretini, with teams and floats from the island’s primary schools, while the famous and unique in Greece Omirae, which are open-air mock theatrical events in the local dialect, are held throughout the week. The big event, however, takes place on the last Saturday of Carnival with the Venetian Wedding a re-enactment of the wedding customs of the Venetian aristocracy, with costumes, banners, drummers and medieval music. On the last Sunday the parade through the town begins. For food it is worth making a stop at the “Prosilio”.

Corfu: The Corfiot Carnival

The Corfu Carnival or Corfiot Carnival has its roots in traditions and customs that go back over 450 years. The Venetian air is also present there. It starts with the Peteyogoletsas, which are revived every year in the central market of the Old Town. It all starts with the lighting of the carnival flame on Tsiknoe Thursday in the centre and carnival “gossip” on the same day in villages such as Argyrades. The big parade in Corfu town takes place after the nightly Venetian walk of the evening.

Rethymno: Cantades in the Old Town

The Rethymno Carnival with its romantic essence awaits you for another year. The big musical ride by the Municipal Choir, the Music School and the carnivalists takes place on the Friday before the last weekend of the carnival, this time focusing on Cretan traditional serenades. The next day is the night parade and on Sunday the big parade that will culminate in the burning of King Carnival and the closing ceremony of the carnival on the beach. If you want to focus on Cretan cuisine, look for “Lemon Garden” while for excellent seafood dishes go to “Prima Plora”.

The customs of Northern Greece

Xanthi: The Queen of Thrace

The carnival of Xanthi for many people “plays on equal terms” with that of Patras. It is of course considered the biggest carnival in Northern Greece and is held every year in the “Queen of Thrace”. It includes a number of events and of course the big parade on Sunday. At the Xanthiotiko carnival, apart from dressing up and partying until the early hours of the morning, you can look for interesting cultural events such as book presentations, screenings and performances. There are also many concerts and organised walks around the city to get to know its various aspects. The big Carnival parade starts early on Sunday afternoon and later in the afternoon of the same day the action moves to the bridge of the river Kosynthos, where the custom of “burning the Tzaros” marks the beginning of the end of the carnival. And because you’ll want to eat, if your appetite takes you to the most delicious spit chicken in town, you’ll go to “Pegasus”.

Drama: The custom of Kalogeros

In the village of Kalambaki, about 12 km from the city of Drama the refugee custom of Kalogeros has been revived for dozens of years. On the Monday of the Little Carnival, one week before Clean Monday, the young people of the village gather in the morning and one of them dresses up as a monk with animal skins and wears bells on his waist. The skirt on his face and the hood make his figure even more frightening. The pheasant-like mob of youths, making a lot of noise and commotion, goes around the houses of the settlement, teasing the residents and asking for treats with the ultimate goal of the village square. There the feast continues with music and dancing in the presence of all residents and travelers

Grevena: Mushroom festivals and zournades at the carnival

From Ash Wednesday to Carnival Monday, the city of Grevena moves to carnival rhythms, with the focus on Emilienou Square. Events focusing on local associations and institutions take place while concerts and parties will be a daily affair. Don’t miss the brass bands and the brass bands and the carnival lanterns on the night of the Great Halloween. The Mushroom Glamb, is a unique experience where the Mushroom Lovers of Greece, the Mushroom Lovers of Western Macedonia and the Lavdas Mushroom Museum collaborate to cook with fine Greek mushrooms and treat the attendees.

Kastoria: The fires and the Buboynes

From one end of Greece to the other, Halloween is intertwined with fires. All the evils and evils of the past year are burned at the bonfire, while the lighting is combined with the change of seasons. That is why the young people of Kastoria collect dead branches and store them in bundles – valuable tinder for the big fire. On the evening of the Sunday of Tyrofagos, the city is illuminated by the great hearths of fire: this is how all the demons are burned. The Bubounes of Kastoria symbolize purification and cleansing and the custom is revived in many neighborhoods of the city. The fire is accompanied by brass instruments playing traditional music, drink and wine and food. The most atmospheric Bubuna is the one in Dolcho, the district with narrow streets and traditional houses.

Lanterns in Kozani

Time and mood for fun and Halloween in Kozani will not let you down. Twelve full days of festivities in the city of Kozani, starting on Ash Wednesday and culminating on the Sunday of Turofagos, just before Clean Monday, with a parade of floats in the city center. All these days, countless events take place all over the prefecture, with the central square of Kozani as the focal point. Theatrical performances, exhibitions, dance nights and of course the custom of the lanterns. The central square of the city is filled with 15 Lanoi who are presented in the central square and then return to their neighborhood to light up. On the evening of Halloween Sunday, all the Lanterns stay lit all night, while singing and dancing is set up around them. Each Lantern has its own brass band, clubs and groups wear traditional costumes and songs are sung in the local idiom and usually contain sexual references, in keeping with the spirit of the days’ freedom. In the restaurant “Tripokaridos” you will find delicacies and dishes with local ingredients.

Naoussa: Janissaries & Boules and after Clean Monday

If you don’t “go out” for excursions during the Halloween weekends, in Naoussa the party lasts for the next three days. On the Sunday of Orthodoxy, i.e. the one after Clean Monday, the famous Janissaries and Boules gather in the Spilaio area for dancing, food and drink. The custom has been around since the time of the Turkish occupation. On Clean Monday the party starts in the morning, but don’t worry as the last date is the following Sunday. For appetizers and stews, head to the “Inomageiremata” tavern.

Customs in the rest of mainland Greece

Jamales in Ioannina

The custom of Jamales in Ioannina includes large fires that are lit on the Sunday afternoon before Clean Monday and around them a three-cover feast is set up with music and dancing. The fires will burn until the early hours of the morning and, as in other parts of Greece, it will act as a cleansing. Every year in the city of Ioannina and the surrounding areas, more than 50 Jamales are set up, with the most popular being that of the Castle. There is also an informal competition for which fire is the strongest and the biggest and the preparations with the wood and logs start many days before. For food, it is worth a visit just outside of Ioannina, specifically at the 7th km of Ioannina-Konitsa, at the restaurant “Gastra” where you will eat delicious grilled food.

Amfissa: The elements and the large cafe

Narrow alleys, wooden doors and the old stone tanneries of Amfissa are the backdrop against which the myth of Constantis is revived every year. Lenio was struck by lightning and the young man, after his death, haunted the spring of Harmonia, the spot where his beloved breathed her last. The element acquired over the years supernatural properties, long arms and its form resembled a monster. The “Night of the Elements” includes scarecrows in ruined mansions, scary murals and exquisite costumes, since the custom is organized by the Amfissa Art Workshop and preparations and “staging” begin months in advance. The procession with thousands of disguised people ends on Saturday at Kehagia Square and you should definitely get a table at the historic cafe-theatre “Megalo Kafeneio 1929”. In the place where scenes of Theodore Angelopoulos’ “Thias” were filmed, the celebration continues with performances and live music. For food, head to “Faropoulos” where you can try appetizers and stews.

Tyrnavos: Bourani and tsipouromezes on Clean Monday

On Clean Monday, the residents of Tyrnavos and the surrounding areas gather in the central square or in the small church of Prophet Ilias to cook burani, a soup with spinach, nettles and flour. Bourani is considered one of the most erotic festivals in Greece which probably originates from ancient Dionysian ceremonies as it includes huge phalluses, obscene songs and profanity. The celebration continues with mezes and of course tsipouro at the tsipouradika of Tyrnavos, known all over Greece. One of the best tsipouradi shops in Tyrnavos is “Statiris” where it is worth a stop.

Galaxidi: Flour battle with a view of the sea

The Aleuromoutzouroma in Galaxidi has a history of more than 200 years, it takes courage and daring. It is thought to derive its origin from Sicily, where similar celebrations took place. The seafaring inhabitants of the coastal city came into contact with such celebrations during their travels and brought them to their place. Shortly after midday on Clean Monday, the signal is given and the convoy of residents and visitors returns to the streets of Galaxidi, scattering colored powders and flour. If you remain untouched by the flour war, look for the “Bebelis” restaurant