The Maypole is a dance that blends perfectly with the
colorful and fun spirit of the feast of the Carnival.
The Maypole is called “gaitanaki” in Greek. It is one of the few customs that are
strongly maintained in various parts of Greece. It was brought over from Asia Minor
and Pontos by the Greek refugees as part of the exchange of populations scheme.
The dance of the “gaitanaki” needs thirteen participants where one of them holds
the wooden pole in the middle from which stream twelve long and differently
colored ribbons. The ribbons are called gaitania and give their name to the
stand around the
main pole and hold a
ribbon each, dancing
in couples to the
tunes of folkloric
music. As they move
around the pole, the
dance partners and,
thus, cause the
ribbons to weave
When all the ribbons are wrapped around the pole causing the dancers to
dance closer and closer to the pole, the dance finishes and the Maypole
acquires a colourful appearance to match the spirit of the Carnival.
Dancing around the Maypole constitutes part of a folklore festival and dates
back to various centuries. We see it across European countries and especially in
rural areas and it symbolizes the love and peace among people.
A pole, as well as 12
colorful ribbons are
need to be
fixed on top
of the pole.
A 13th person holds the pole
in the centre of the circle
formed by the dancers.
It is said that number 12 symbolizes
the 12 months of the year.
The dancers form 6 couples.
Each couple faces another one and they all move
During the dance, each dancer alternately passes by the
other’s right and left side, making the ribbons intertwine
on the pole, thus, creating a rather beautiful pattern.
This circular dance,
possibly symbolizes the
circle of life. From
happiness to sadness,
from winter to spring, from
life to death and vice versa.