From the 1st until the 31st of March, children wear on the wrist of their hand a bracelet made of twisted white and red thread, the "March" or "Martitsi". According to a popular tradition, the "March" protects children from the first sun of spring, so that it will not burn them.
It is made on the last day of February and worn either as a ring or at the wrist like a bracelet. Sometimes it is even worn in the big toe, so that the person wearing it will not stumble.
The custom is that mothers have to tie the children’s hand or foot with this string of white and red thread, in order to shield the rays of March’s sun, which is considered very dangerous. The March sun usually burns and blackens the faces of children. But blackness meant ugliness, especially for girls who tradition wanted them to be wanted white with pink cheeks: "whoever has a precious daughter; March’s sun shall not see her."
It is customary to wear it until the end of the month. Then, after taking it of, they hang it on a rose tree so that their cheeks will be red as roses.
"March" is not only worn by people. In some areas of the country they hung the thread all night in the branches of a rose so that it will flourish, while in other areas they put it around the pitchers to protect the water from the sun and keep it cold. Elsewhere it is worn until they see the first swallows, and then leave it on rose trees, to get the birds to build their nest. Elsewhere they wear it until the Resurrection and then tie it to the Easter candles to burn.
The "March" or "Martitsi" is an ancient custom, spread all across the Balkans, due to its adoption by the Byzantines, who maintained it. It is believed that it has its origins in ancient Greece, specifically in the Eleusinian Mysteries, because the initiates of the Eleusinian Mysteries used to tie a thread, "Kroki", in their right hand and their left foot.
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Don't miss the traditional carnival events in Athens!
On Thursday 3rd of March at 12.00 in Varvakeios Agora, the central meat Market of Athens, Athenians are eating, drinking and dancing all together, celebrating "Tsiknopempti", this week according tradition is the "Meat week" (Kreatini). You can continue drinking, eating and dancing since 17.00 till 20.00 in Plateia Avdi, Metaxourgeion. The tradition of Tsiknopempti has its origin to Bach At 18.00 the same day The tradition has its origin to then ancient feasts dedicated to Dionysus/Bacchus. The same day Thursday 3rd of March at 18.30 there is a date at the Metro station "Acropolis" to revive the carnival of Plaka and follow the same ancient road with ancient Athenians when celebrating Dionysus, with musical instruments, dance and carnival songs from the Artistic Agency "Forms of Expression" in the historic city center. If you think that you already loose your self contact us and get lost in Athens with us with a special tour for the day!
The Greek carnival has its roots in ancient Greece and it is associated with the cult of Dionysus, god of wine and celebration.The English word "carnival" comes from the Latin “carnem levare” or “carnis levamen”, which means "termination of meat eating." In Greek the word "Apokria" is used, which means exactly the same. This popular tradition comes from the pagan rituals of the ancient Greeks and the celebrations in honour of Dionysus, god of wine and cheerfulness. People disguised in satyrs or wore masks and rushed out to the streets and neighbourhoods behaving "provocatively" speaking bold words and doing bold deeds. This served the purpose to be allowed to freely express sexual thoughts while hiding their true identity behind masks.
This tradition eventually spread to other parts of the world through the Roman Empire and the discovery of the New World. But the pagan practices were so ingrained therefore they were never completely abolished. Later, when Christianity appeared, although people stopped worshiping the gods of Olympus, the habits of the Greeks to disguise themselves and celebrate in the streets remained.
Once a year, carnivals take place in many cities and villages of our country. In fact, the carnival lasts three weeks and begins 60 days before Easter. It is called Triodio. The word comes from "three odes" meaning the three hymns we often say in church. It starts on the first Sunday, mentioned in the Gospel of "Telonis and Pharisee." On the second Sunday is the Gospel of the "Prodigal Son". The third is the "Carnival" and the last Sunday of Carnival, in which celebrations and events reach their peak, is "Tyrini". The end of the Carnival is the dawn of the next day: the first day of Lent, called Clean Monday. During these days, festivals and events are organized everywhere and people have a lot of fun, especially children. Adults and children are dressed in funny costumes, dancing, singing and watching parades, carnivals and other activities organized by the municipalities in almost every city of Greece.
What a beautiful feeling of primitiviness! Walking around Acropolis and listening to the same sounds from thousands of years ago performed during the feasts of Dionysos, the origin of the modern carnival...