The Arapides, dressed in animal hidesand with “tsania” (bells) tied to them, divide into two groups with two leaders to guide them and go out into the village lanes. Their steps are slow and dramatic and they make much noise in order to expel evil and bring an optimistic message of life. The two groups unite for the climax of the custom at the square where the public is waiting for them. The two leaders fight until one has been knocked out. There then follows a mystery ceremony around the fallen leader, which ends with his resurrection. Now joyful, they all remove their masks to reveal their faces and perform a frantic circle dance.
According to tradition, the death of the Arab symbolises the death of Dionysus at the hands of the Titansand the inertia of nature during the winter months, while his revival symbolises the resurrection of Dionysus by Zeus and the awakening of nature with the coming of spring.
The revival and preservation of the custom of the “Arapides” is performed by the “Arapis” Cultural Association of Nikisiani. The custom traditionally reached its climax on 7 January but practical reasons mean it has been moved to 6 January.