Festival traditions and merrymaking

Carnival festivities in Greece are a great opportunity for people to get together and enjoy themselves in the good old traditional way.

The Patras Carnival is a very popular event in Patras town, North Peloponnese, with visitors from Greece and abroad. The whole town follows the rhythm of the festivities, where locals and visitors enjoy watching the Opening and Closing Ceremony, the Treasure Hunt Game, the Night Parade, the Big Parade, the Carnival of Children, and more.

In the Thrace region in the Greek north, Xanthi town hosts Xanthiotiko Carnival – Thracian Folk Art Festivities, with visitors from all over. The events include folk art performances, dancing, visual art exhibitions, concerts by famous Greek artists, and local traditional dishes to enjoy. The Children’s Parade is a special procession for schoolchildren and the Big Parade takes place on the last Sunday of Carnival, with masquerades, dancing in the streets and partying all day long. Other, smaller towns have their own customary Carnival observances and traditions of a more particular nature.

In Galaxidi, a coastal town in Central Greece, Alevromoutzouromata is followed, a very old tradition and the last Carnival celebration to take place on Clean Monday, the first day of Lent before Easter. Locals gather in the streets, armed with bags of flour and soot, streamers, and confetti, wearing bells around their waists! They dance on the streets as they head for the harbor area. Once they get there, the battle begins! The participants target each other with the contents of their bags while dancing to folk tunes.

In Naousa, Macedonia, Genitsari and Boules is a centuries-old celebration that involves masquerading, full-face masking, and patinades (instrumental folk tunes played at weddings). Groups of young unmarried men (genitsari) dress in traditional costumes and escort a fully masked Boula (a young man impersonating a woman dressed in a traditional costume) through the streets. There’s dancing and teasing along the way, with musicians playing traditional pipes and drums following them all day long. On the last Carnival Sunday at dusk, the masks are removed, and the identity of the frolickers is revealed.

In Zante Island, an elegant Carnival event takes place, the Venetian Wedding, a revival of a traditional 16th century ceremony. It is a theatrical performance given in the streets, where participants wear beautiful costumes based on what the local gentry wore long ago. The company is led by the bride and groom, who are announced by drum beaters and flag carriers while Renaissance music is played. Locals and visitors along the streets cheer and clap their hands as the couple heads for San Marco Square, where the happy event takes place in the presence of the notary, and as per 16th century customs and traditions. The wedding party follows, with more music, dancing, and traditional local dishes and sweets for everyone.

Prepare for wildly colorful sights at the Patras Carnival, Greece
Prepare for wildly colorful sights at the Patras Carnival, Greece, © L. Hapsis.

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