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 a long time ago and features music, dancing, bonfires and jumping over them, smoke bombs, flares and, of course, lots and lots of flour dust!
Oh, what a day! On my way back from the Carnival of Zante, I decided to visit 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. 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 nearby 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.
I had wrapped my camera meticulously in cling film as I have been hinted at what was coming. Bought me 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.
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 of the participants wear 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.
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 wouldn't be able to 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.
After the party is finished around the port, people go to local tavernas and bars and continue to dance and have fun.