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Flour wars of Galaxidi on Ash Monday

Galaxidi in Greece is a host to a very interesting event on Ash Monday every year, called Alevromountzouromata, i.e. Flour Wars. It is a custom that takes place for a very long time and features music, dancing, bonfires and jumping over them, smoke bombs, flares and, of course, lots and lots of flour dust!


A team of participants at the flour wars of Galaxidi, aka Alevromountzouromata
A team of participants at the flour wars of Galaxidi, aka Alevromountzouromata


Visiting Galaxidi for the Flour Wars - Alevromountzouromata



Unveiling the Origins


Oh, what a day! On my way back from the Carnival of Zante, I visited the almost two-century-old custom of flour wars in Galaxidi. The custom from what I hear is debated to originate either from Sicily or Byzantium. It is also said that not even during the Ottoman occupation could this custom be stopped. This custom takes place on Ash Monday only, so the date is not fixed, while nothing similar takes place anywhere else around Greece.



A girl wearing protective face mask and clothes at the flour wars of Galaxidi
A girl wearing protective face mask and clothes




The Flour-Clad Parade


I arrived ahead of time, around noon, and heard that the parade was due to start at around two to three in the afternoon. All the locals were dressed in their old clothes and most of them had their faces painted blue, ash or ochre. They have one or two cloth bags hung on either of their sides full of coloured flour. If you don't have any, free flour is provided by the local authorities near the city's entrance.


The event starts with a parade of self-made chariots and pedestrians. It starts from the place where the flour is being given and follows the central road towards the port. It is easy to tell which road it is, as the buildings are covered in canvas to protect them from the flour. 




Buildings are covered in nylon to protect them from the flour at the flour wars of Galaxidi, by photographer George Tatakis
Buildings are covered in nylon to protect them from the flour


A Flour-Proofed Odyssey


I had wrapped my camera meticulously in cling film as I had been hinted at what was coming. I bought myself a protective uniform from a local shop for four euros and after giving it some thought, I got myself a second one and put it on top. They also give you a surgical mask with the uniform. Do wear that, trust me, you're gonna need it, at least the first time. When I visited for a second time I just used old clothes and no protective gear so I could move around easier. 


The parade will follow this narrow road to move towards the road along the port, where the dancing also starts. There was me, standing in the middle of the parade, against the flow of the parade, holding my camera up. That was enough to make me the number one target. 



Moving towards the port for the dance to start at the flour wars of Galaxidi, by photographer George Tatakis
Moving towards the port for the dance to start


Flares, cars and dance at the flour wars in Galaxidi, by photographer George Tatakis
Flares, cars and dance


In about, well, one minute, I had turned to ash by the mixture of flour on me and I could hardly move my eyelids as my tears had turned the flour around my eyes into the mud. My eyes were burning like hell. Most participants wore protective goggles, but this would have made it too difficult to photograph, so I passed. The party now moves to the port where people start to light fires in the middle of the road and dance to different kinds of music around each fire. 



Dance Amidst the Flour Storm - Flour, Flares, and Revelry


By now, some friends that I met by chance before the event started, were lost in the crowd. Even if I saw them in front of me I couldn't tell it was them. That is a hint on the flour's volume! The party continues along the port road and people dance around the fires and drink mostly beer and wine. Some of them even light up colourful smoke bombs. Provision is made for the ones that prefer to watch rather than participate. They can stand on the other side of the port where the participants cannot go. If you are on the side of the event, then you are going to participate no matter what. 



An Aftermath of Camaraderie


As the festivities conclude around the port, the spirit of Flour Wars lingers in the air. Locals and visitors alike converge on tavernas and bars, extending the celebration. Relationships forged in the crucible of flour wars endure, creating memories as indelible as the flour stains on clothing.



Relationships shifting at the flour wars in Galaxidi, by photographer George Tatakis
Relationships shifting at the flour wars


Adding wood to the bonfire at the port during the flour wars of Galaxidi, by photographer George Tatakis
Adding wood to the bonfire at the port

Conclusion


Galaxidi's Flour Wars (Alevromountzouromata) stands as a testament to the timelessness of traditions and the resilience of communities to preserve their cultural heritage. This annual spectacle, with its roots lost in the mists of history, beckons all to partake in a dance of colors, laughter, and camaraderie. As we bid adieu to another Ash Monday, the flour-dusted streets of Galaxidi resonate with the echoes of a tradition that refuses to be forgotten.

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