The Anastenaria is another festival with deep pagan roots blended with Christian rituals. The Christian Orthodox festivals revolve around various Christian saints; the Anastenaria Festival is celebrated in some villages of Greece and Bulgaria to honor Saint Constantine and Saint Helen. The people who celebrate this festival are descended from the refugees who entered Greece from Eastern Thrace.
A popular legend associated with its origin is that once the church caught fire with the saints trapped in it. Some brave locals on hearing the cries for help of the saints, rushed into the burning building to rescue the reverend saints.
The blazing fire did not harm the locals and from that day onwards, a festival is held in which the devotees walk on burning coals. Some people also believe that the Anastenaria are vestiges of ancient practices of cults of Dionysus.
Anastenaria is celebrated in May and dancing, music, animal sacrifice and walking on fire are the main rituals of the festival. The participants gather in a special building or a room called Konaki where the icons of the saints are placed along with other objects considered sacred. The festival commences with dancing; some devotees get so involved in the dancing that it seems as if they are in a trance.
On the 21st of May, the participants march towards a holy well to be blessed by the holy water. Next ritual is the animal sacrifice; the meat is later distributed among the villagers. Then a bed of burning coals is prepared and devotees dance around it.
Some of them even run barefoot on the hot coals carrying the icons. The festival lasts for three days and ends with a private fire walking ritual. The ritual was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in the year 2009.