Vol.15, No.2 | [Article] Bull Sacrifice and Communal Meal - Kesketsi_ Pilgrimage at a Greek Saint’s Feast



The liturgical festival dedicated to Agios (Saint) Charalampos, the protector of the farmers, is celebrated in the mating season of the horses, so that the saint may provide for their fecundity. Since he is expected to ensure an abundant harvest, he is also celebrated later during the year with a popular festival in the village of Agia Paraskeuē on the island of Lesbos, where the bull sacrifice constitutes the climax of the festival. The sacrifice is performed on the summit of Tauros, the Mountain of the Bull, after the blessing of the animal by the priest. The bull is cut up and left to cook all night. The next day the priest will bless the traditional dish kesketsi, cooked from the sacrificed bull, which is consumed by all the festival participants who also share another communal meal Charlamelia, at the conclusion of the festival.
The article presents the festival and explores the importance of the communal meal, kesketsi, a custom which is also crucial at several saints’ feasts on the island. Communal meals cooked from sacrificial bulls or sheep dedicated to different saints are also important in other places in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. The custom has important parallels in the wider Greek context, ancient and modern.