Ecclesia Ordinis Caelestis Templum Olympicus/Celestial Order and Temple of Olympus

Festival of Anthesteria: Pithoigia (Jar-Opening)

February 25

This is the “Festival of Flowers,” when the first shoots of blossom appear, and is one of the oldest Greek festivals, dating back to the second millennium BCE; it was also called the Older Dionysia. At this time the vines are pruned again and the second fermentation of the wine is complete; it is now ready for drinking, and so this festival complements the Oskhophoria (c. Oct. 22), which celebrates the vintage.

The first day celebrates the opening of the pithoi (jars) in which the wine has fermented. A pompe (procession) symbolizes the coming of Dionysos from the sea in a ship-chariot to His sanctuary; the God may be represented by an image or a masked man. The procession includes musicians and bearers of the ritual instruments, and other men, riding in the carts and perhaps masked as Satyrs, merrily hurl insults at bystanders. The pithoi are also brought, and after they are broken open and the wine is mixed by the priestesses (i.e. diluted with water, as Dionysos taught the Greeks to drink it), a first-fruits offering is made to Him with a prayer that the wine be beneficial. Then the wine is tasted and there are songs and dances, in which He is celebrated as the Fair-Flowering, the Reveller, the Stormer, etc.