Carnival: Merriment, masks and movement

Carnival is celebrated throughout Attica with fanciful dress, dancing and singing. Although celebrated differently in different places, the same uninhibited joy is expressed everywhere.

A tale as old as time…

Carnival is a celebration as old as the gods of Mount Olympus, as mysterious as the masks of ancient drama (and as open to role-playing). In Greece, the disguises, satire, dances and songs are rooted in the ancient rites of Dionysus, and were created by country folk who desired to challenge the forces of nature after a harsh winter and awaken the soil’s fertility. For this reason carnival is a spring festival, marking nature’s rebirth.

According to Christian tradition, meanwhile, “carnival” is synonymous with abstaining from meat for the three weeks before Shrove Monday. This is in preparation for the great Lenten fast, which begins immediately thereafter. Although the Greeks use “apokria” to describe the carnival period, they also refer to “karnavali” (derived from Latin words “carne”, meat, and “vale”, farewell).

Carnival today…

Today, carnival means time for disguises, fun, practical jokes and escape from the daily routine, with all its challenges, politics and stress.

In many areas of Greece (Attica, Galaxidi, Xanthi, Naoussa, Skyros, Veroia, Thebes, Amfissa, Kozani, Naxos, Rethymnon, Chania, and especially Patras, which holds a large parade with colourful floats), old customs are revived and passed down faithfully to the next generation.


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