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Culture Folklore East Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture of Drama

Walking on burning coals at Mavrolefki on the 18th of January, the day of St. Athanasios celebration
(Photo: Mina Macheropoulou)
Misericorde with icons at the konaki (holy house) of Mavrolefki
(Photo: Mina Macheropoulou)
Ritual dinner after walking on burning coals on the 23rd of May at Mavrolefki
(Photo: Mina Macheropoulou)

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4/10/2006
Anastenaria

Mina Machairopoulou
Source: CETI
© Eastern Macedonia - Thrace Region
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It is an old Thracian custom of the Sozoagathoupolis area of Eastern Romilia (contemporary Bulgaria) focused in the villages of Kosti and Brodivo. During the exchange of populations in 1923, refugee anastenarides brought with them their icons because they strongly believed that they should keep the custom while settling in Macedonia.
The custom?s ritual begins in the evening of the 20th of May at the konaki, the holy house, with a ritual dance in front of the place where the icons of the apostles Konstantinos and Eleni, Madonna and other saints are placed. The icons named ?papoudes? have a big handle helping the anastenarides to hold them easily when walking on burning coals. The amanetia -red handkerchiefs- are also important as holy heirlooms that the archianastenaris (the leader of Anastenarides) gives to every Anastenaris during the ritual dance at the konaki and before walking on the burning coals.
A kourban (animal?s sacrifice) is made on the 21st of May for eveyrone?s sake. Meat is distributed in every house of the village. It is the basic meal of the last day of the panigiri (fest).
The melodies played on lira, davul and gaida are concentrated in the song of Mikrokonstantinos:
Konstantinos the little one, little Konstantis
His mother had him, she engaged him while he was very young
A message came for him to go to the war
He saddles and horseshooes his horse in the night
He puts silver petals, golden nails
and a pearl on the saddle
Walking on burning coals is performed on the 21st and 23rd of May at Mavrolefki, Drama. Walking on burning coals at Lagadas, Thesaloniki, is performed during the three days of the panigiri (fest).
Walking on burning coals is performed in winter, on the 18th of January, the day when St. Athanasios is celebrating.
The fact that the legs of the performers are not burnt has been investigated by many researchers. They ascribe the phenomenon to their deep faith.