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N. Kokkas

Local Customs and Traditions of Grevena

From Rougatsaria to Andromana

With the modern way of life dictating a faster tempo and a change in priorities, local customs and traditions have served as a cohesive link for every small or large social group. The efforts to maintain or revive customs and habits of the past are undertaken primarily by cultural associations of the villages, and even by more influential bodies.
The fairs marking church feast days are not just opportunities to have a good time, but also occasions for the villagers, especially expats, to get together and revisit their roots. Lucky travellers who find themselves at such traditional festivals are sure to be spoiled by the dancing, local food and drink. They might also get the chance to experience the poignancy of expats who came from afar promising to “meet again next year.” Most festivals, for obvious reasons, take place in the summer, culminating on August 15 with the feast of the Virgin Mary.
Gournochara (the traditional winter preparation of pork), is among the customs that have survived or are revived in many villages and are associated with the Christmas season. It entails the slaughter of domestic pigs, fed with great care throughout the year by households, and making the most of the meat, and every part of the animal. The skin is processed to make gourounotsaroucha (traditional pig leather shoes) while the lard is usually used to replace olive oil in cooking.
Most of the meat is turned into sausages, while the head, ears and legs were used in the patsas dish (tripe). After being melted, the lard was placed in containers, often with pieces of boiled meat to preserve it until summer. All this work required the participation of several people, making the gournochara an occasion for feasting.
Rougatsaria is a common custom in areas of western Macedonia and Thessaly, with small variations in its name and in its implementation. It is also known in the villages of Grevena.
On New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, groups of young people, dressed in traditional costumes, among them a "bride" and "a black person”, called Rougos or Rougatsiaris, make the rounds of the village houses, singing good luck wishes or mocking verses, depending on the homeowner and the reception that is reserved for them. The related custom of the Kamila (Camel) is more widespread in the area of ​​Kozani.
Fanoi is associated with Apokries (Carnival) as it is in neighbouring Kozani town. Carnival Sunday night in the past meant that large bonfires made of tree branches were lit in every neighbourhood; people danced around them & sang, with their inhibitions removed, in an atmosphere of carefree fun. The custom also permits the use of foul language and teasing. The custom is maintained in several villages, mainly due to the initiatives of local associations.
Andromana is a special custom of Deskati. The Friday after Easter Sunday, on the day of the feast of Zoodochos Pigi, residents and visitors perform the "tranos choros" dance in the town square, which entails the formation of a circle by six men holding each other's shoulders in a circle. Six other men climb on their shoulders and in turn three more climb up to create an impressive human pyramid more than five metres high.
The Grevena trade fair is an impressive event, attracting large numbers of visitors from the surrounding areas. It takes place every year in early October in the district of Meras or in the area of ​​Achilli; its style recalls the great local bazaars of the past.
The cherry festival takes place every year in June in Amygdalies village which is famous for its cherry production. It is organised by the local cultural association and includes singing, dancing and plenty of cherries.
After changing various locations, the Mushroom Festival has settled, since 2017, in the Mushroom Park in Grevena town, and it is organised by a large number of associations. This is a top tier event, usually lasting 3-4 days, and it attracts mushroom lovers from all over Greece and abroad. It takes place every year in mid-July and includes many events, concerts and mushroom picking outings, seminars, and mushroom cooking sessions.
The Giagouleia River Spirit is a special event which has had a hesitant beginning but it evolved into a successful nature activity. It is held every year under the aegis of the Giangouleia Nature Enthusiasts Association of Grevena, by the banks of Aliakmonas river, near Nisi village, usually during the first weekend of August; it involves a number of nature activities, concerts and other events.

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