Ancient Greece Festivals

Ancient Greek Festivals were seasonal. Hence, the four most famous festivals were those in each of the four seasons held in honor of Dionysus. They were:

(1) Anthesteria (Early spring)

(2) Greater Dionysia (late spring early summer)

(3) Lesser Dionysia ( Mid Winter)

(4) Lenaea ( Late winter)

Anthesteria (Festival of the Vine flower)

Day 1: Pithoigia (“Opening of the Wine-Jars”) the jars of new wine was opened. The master and slave partook of the wine, side by side.

Greek Xinomavro Kiyianni Vineyards

Day 2: Cohoes (“Pitchers”) The second day was known as “Beakers”, on which they blessed the new wine and competed in drinking from it to the sound of trumpets. On that day, children had a holiday from school and were supplied with small breakers in order to participate in the festivities

It was a custom in Athens as well as other cities to celebrate the Festival of the Vine Flower. This is a feast of the dead as well. This season was considered holy as Spring is the time when most new plants bloom. It would start off with a drinking contest amongst the men in which they would drink wine. The slaves were allowed to participate, and on this occasion, would be treated as equals.

Greater Dionysia

Greater Dionysia was celebrated in Athens in the late spring for five days. Pisistratus, in the second half of the sixth century B.C., introduced the cult of Dionysos in the city as an addition to the popular rural one.

festivals of Dionysus

The Dionysian theatre was noted for its democratic nature for everyone was invited to be entertained. During the celebration business life stopped, prisoners were freed in order to participate.In the city, this Ancient Greek festival opened with a phallic parade, in which the god’s image was born through.

Lesser Dionysia

This festival took place during the month Poseideon (December), at various times in the various demes (villages) of Attica, the countryside around Athens. A feature of the celebration was a procession in which a large model of a phallic (a male organ) was carried along, accompanied by a noble lady serving as Basket-Bearer with a basket of raisins or other fruit. A billy-goat was led along to be sacrificed to Dionysos.

On the second day of the festival, there is the Klismos, a contest to see who can balance longest on top of a greased, inflated wine-skin (asks). One-legged games such as standing on one leg, one-legged races, one-legged tag with the raised leg, one-legged hopping endurance were also enjoyed.

Lenaia festivals

Lenaea

Lenaea was the Ancient Greek Festivals where the wine of the season was born. The theatre was an integral part of Dionysus festival Lenaea. Many of the great Greek tragedies actually originated during this festival.

Lenaea took place in the beginning of winter, the followers of Dionysus referred to the time the wine finished fermenting as its birth. They also believed this coincided with one of the births of Dionysus (Kerenyi 284).