Friday, February 15, 2019

Pagan Festival Shout Out : Anthesteria

Anthesteria, one of the several Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus, the wine god, held annually for three days in the month of Anthesterion (February–March) to celebrate the beginning of spring and the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage. On the first day (Pithoigia, or “Jar Opening”) libations were offered to Dionysus from the newly opened casks. The second day (Choes, or “Wine Jugs”) was a time of popular merrymaking typified by wine-drinking contests in which even slaves and children participated. The third day (Chytroi, or “Pots”) was a festival of the dead, for which, apparently, pots of seed or bran were offered to the dead.

The Anthesteria was not as grand in its public processions and rituals as other Athenian festivals, such as the Great Dionysia or the Great Panathenaea. Much of the festival seems to relate to personal or familial activities, such as drinking in silence and not sharing one’s wine and the household sacrifices of porridge. Wine was so important that Dionysos was celebrated each year for the creation of new wine. Furthermore, because the spirits of the dead roamed the city on the ‘unlucky’ 12th and 13th Anthesterion. 

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