Naked Bonfire Dancing and Other Athens Customs

Athens is full of connections to the past.

You can throw a rock in any direction and hit an ancient temple, and safely assume that Socrates once walked on that rock you threw. But it’s not just the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora that make Athens a place full of historical remnants. Some important customs have survived the centuries, although their forms may have adapted to the changing times.

A noteworthy Greek trend has been the worship of strong female figures. Back in the day, Athena was queen bee, like a more beneficent Regina George. Athens was not only named in her honor, but the Acropolis was built as a tribute to her, and she received credit for pretty much everything, from athletic glory to military victory. Nowadays, Athenians worship Anna Vissy instead, a famous Greek pop star who, at 58, is basically the Greek version of Madonna. I can’t blame them either: her 2007 hit To Poli Poli is actually pretty catchy.

Under the Panathenaic Stadium, before gladiators or athletes ever paraded through the Cave of the Fates, young women would try to take advantage of its magical abilities by dancing nude around bonfires in hopes of finding a good husband. Elderly women stood guard at the entrance to ward off the ancient pervs. Unless I missed the invite to Saturday’s Naked Virgin Dance Party at Magical Cave Club Athens, (free shots for old ladies!) we don’t think this tradition is still around. The bonfires of the past have turned into crowded bars, and old women no longer make good bouncers.

Athenians also used to hold a festival during the winter to honor Dionysus, god of wine and fertility (basically the winky face emoji of Ancient Greece.) During the festival, a large phallus sculpture was *cough* erected. Competitions were held to see who could polish off their wine the fastest before a bull was sacrificed. Other than the bovine slaughter, the rest seems like a pretty intact tradition. First, you can head to the nightclubs in Gazi and polish off some  jugs of wine before being flashed in the park on the way home. Because for some reason Athens seems to be kind of notorious for “history buffs.”

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