The Twelve Days of Christmas or 'Rogatsaria'

Rogatsaria There are many names for this celebratory custom which is enacted during the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany in northern Greece (Thessaly, and parts of Macedonia and Thrace) and throughout the Balkans as well. The name varies between villages and also between regions.

One of the common elements is teams of men, some of whom are dressed as women, with common characters such as a bride, groom, doctor, gypsy, and bear, similar to the teams and roles during Apokries (Carnival) during the three weeks before Sarakosti (Greek Lent).

Another common element is the death and resurrection of one of the characters. The teams go from house to house in the villages and sings songs to the villagers, which may be improvised, and which can be funny and/or lewd.

The teams are given some kind of treat by the householders, who will sometimes dance with them. Teams, when they happen to meet one another, engage in mock battles, though in the past the battles were sometimes quite serious, resulting in injury or even death. In some of the Rogatsaria, men are covered with wolf pelts or goat hides, with bells hanging from their waist (also similar to Carnival costumes).

The Pontic version of this custom is called Momoyeri. The Pontics are Greeks from the Black Sea area in what is now northeastern Turkey, who were forced to leave during the compulsory 'exchange of populations' in 1923, and who were settled largely in Greek Thrace and Macedonia. The Momoyeri are like improvised plays which are based upon certain given themes, with dancers and a musician playing the lyra (see instruments). Some of the same characters as in the rogatsaria are included.