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Clean Monday’s returning Athenians March 12, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Greek Culture Heritage, Special Features.
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Traffic clogs major highways as thousands return after holiday

Traffic police yesterday afternoon set up diversions at various junctions on the national road network in a bid to alleviate heavy congestion caused by hundreds of thousands of citizens returning to their hometowns after the long weekend. 

11-03-08_clean_monday.jpg  Clean Monday celebrations > People dressed up in colorful costumes across Greece over the weekend as Carnival season celebrations wound up yesterday on Clean Monday or Kathara Deftera in Greek, the first day of Lent. The Athens City Council held different festivities in central parts of the capital as the sunny weather helped guarantee a good turnout. Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis celebrated on Philoppapou Hill, close to the Acropolis, where thousands of Athenians attended.

11-03-08_kite_acropolis.jpg  Typical on Clean Monday is the kite flying.

Flour warriors rise to the occasion > A flour war in which participants throw bags of the foodstuff at each other has taken place in Galaxidi, Greece.

The event in the coastal town of Galaxidi, 200 kilometres west of Athens, is one of the most popular traditions in the country. The first day of Orthodox Lent is called Clean Monday, and in Galaxidi they celebrate its end with a street battle where flour tinted with food colouring is used as ammunition.

12-03-08_galaxidi.jpg  Participants come from across Greece, some donning goggles and plastic suits in an attempt to avoid getting covered in the sticky mess. The neoclassical houses are protected with plastic sheeting, and locals spend days afterwards trying to clean the streets.

According to legend the ritual began in 1801 when the townspeople painted their faces with ash and danced through the streets, celebrating the carnival in defiance of their Ottoman rulers.


The Carnival of Xanthi March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Greek Culture, Greek Culture Heritage, Special Features.
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The carnival of Xanthi is not just  a parade of disguised people and there is no other like it and as it was inspired by a group of its founders who begun with the determination and the belief to make it an institution in Thrace and in Macedonia.

Not only does it consist of soulless colorful mechanized caricatures but it really  consists of folk celebrations with European and domestic bands. And the responsible committee about the organization of the carnival have succeeded as it is said by thousands of people who have attended the celebrations. It is officially then an institution. It is a fair, an aggregation of folk festivals in the season of the carnival and in times of entertainment. So the parade itself are are the complement of the whole festival which is Thrace’s vivid expression.

It is obvious that during the forty years of the celebrations the carnival festivals have undergone some changes and are redefined with novelties because it is just natural for an institution like that to go through some phases of reorientation.

Above all it has to do with an institution that cannot be met elsewhere. The institution stands for a platform on which many cultural activities take place, it transforms and every year it serves as a way of expression on various social and cultural issues. It looks forward to the future and accents the past assuring that it reflects a rich domestic vividness in an area where multicultural and multinational social groups coexist harmoniously.

Related Links > http://www.carnival-of-xanthi.gr/index.php?lang=en&nocache=1

The Carnival of Patras March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Greek Culture, Greek Culture Heritage, Special Features.
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Albeit not as renowned as certain other Mediterranean and central European carnivals, Patras’s carnival is amongst Europe’s finest. Together with that of Nottingham, in London, it is the largest in terms of active participation (40.000 masqueraders in the Great Parade) and, without doubt, the first in participation of young people and therefore leading in enthusiasm and passion.

The Carnival started approximately 180 years ago and has since exhibited a historically interesting course and development. It all began in 1829, with masquerade balls thrown in the residences of the locals bourgeois. At some point, from 1870 onwards, the bourgeois also finances the construction of carnival floats and the parade comes into being. For many decades, the balls and parade constitute the official carnival of Patras and are the basis of its fame outside the city’s limits.

In its fringe, of course, there is a popular version, with parties in taverns or private residences and the mpoules (an improvised masquerade, usually with the help of clothing belonging to the opposite sex, one’s grandmother ect). The floats and masquerades are constructed by popular artisans, a fact reflecting on their style. The Carnival however, remains a bourgeois festival as the tone is set by flamboyant balls and the organization and financing of the parade and floats. And, with the exception of the mpoules, the bourgeois is behind its few but representative customs – the waxed egg war, the chocolate-war and the balls of the “bourboulia”.

This carnival, indeed, is purely of Italian origin and is completely unrelated to the pagan carnival customs of the rest of the country, whose roots are lost in time, dating back to the ancient god Dionysus, and whose phallic symbols and wantonness in disguise and song constitute the rural rituals for springtime fertility and the productivity of land and flock.

Its western character is enforced by the fact that apart from the de facto cosmopolitan composition of the local bourgeois (Greeks from the colonies, together with English, Germans and others as local representatives or businessmen themselves in the raisin commerce) popular participation in the carnival is represented mostly by the city’s large Italian community (political fugitives from their country) and by the islanders from the Ionian Islands who have settled in Patras in search of work.

At times more robust or less inspired – in proportion to concurrent political and financial situation, the Patras Carnival, with its Italian, bourgeois and “prim and proper” features, marched on until 1940. In the period between 1940 and 1950 the carnival was not celebrated because of the war, the enemy occupation and the Civil War that ensued in Greece after liberation from the Nazis. It will resume from 1951 with one modification: from now on the organizer shall be the Municipality of Patras.

The greatest subversion, however, came from within, and indirectly reflected the social changes in the young generation’s rights and perceptions after 1968, albeit superficially resulting from two coincidental events. In 1966 a game was tried, in the context of the carnival: a treasure hunt for the crews of the carnival float cars. 94 people participate, and numbers will gradually rise within the following years, as the ownership of a car, as a condition for participation is abandoned. (Amongst these 94 we find the presenter Alkis Steas, who from the following year until .. contributed greatly to the treasure hunt and the carnival of Patras in general).

In 1981 the Municipality’s failure, due to financial difficulties, in producing an adequate number of carnival floats for the Great Parade lead, as a compulsory solution, to the participation of carnival groups. That was it. The participation of young people in the treasure hunt groups rises rapidly and when, after 1987, the organizing Municipality fully accepts and encourages the fact, the rise in participation is effectuated by geometric progression. The Patras carnival becomes a matter of youth; it evolves into a public festival of the people of Patras and thus experiences a wild development in all parameters.

Related Links > http://www.carnivalpatras.gr/index.php?section=7

It’s Carnival time all over Greece March 7, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Greek Culture Heritage, Special Features.
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The Germans, the Venetians and the people of Rio de Janeiro are renowned celebrators at Carnival time, but Greeks also have a deep-rooted Carnival tradition.

The Greek word for Carnival is Apokria. This is derived from apokreos, which in turn means abstaining from meat, because Carnival is followed by a period of fasting. The Carnival period, or Triodio, begins three weeks before Clean Monday. In these three weeks, you really must make the most of all the celebrations, because for the following 40 days of fasting leading up to Easter, going by the Julian calendar, the Orthodox Church allows no festivities. The first and second Sundays are Meat Sundays (Kreofagou), and the third Sunday is Cheese Sunday (Tirofagou). The main focus of the Carnival celebrations starts on the Thursday (Tsiknopempti in Greek) before Sunday – Kiriaki tis Apokrias.

In the north, people don goatskins and bells and go from house to house, wishing everyone a prosperous year and successful harvest. But the real celebrations take place in the Peloponnese region. In Patras, they celebrate the legendary “white ball”. All the principles of a centuries-old Orthodox tradition seem to be suddenly forgotten. Everyone, even the women, feel free to make fools of themselves. Clad from top to toe in black, groups of women walk through the streets, flirting with every man they like the look of, and dreaming of liberty and equality. The Patras Carnival celebration lasts four weeks and ends on Clean Monday. This is followed by a period of inner and outer purification. Another equally attractive custom practised throughout the country on Clean Monday is kite flying.

07-03-08_carnival_dancers.jpg  Dancers from the Aegean island of Skyros perform the ‘Struggle of the Yeri’ in central Athens streets

Skyros, an island in the Sporades, is famous throughout Greece for its Carnival celebrations. These go back to the story of a herdsman who lost his entire flock in a snowstorm. Beside himself with grief, the yeros (old man) took the skins from his animals, hung their bells about his body and returned to the village. Ever since the men of the island have dressed up in skins, bells, and masks once a year in his memory to perform the “Struggle of the Yeri”. According to how the clothes are worn, the yeros is a herdsman from the waist down and a goat from the waist up. On Clean Monday, the islanders gather in the streets, dance, roar and fight with each other, ringing their bells, which weigh up to 88 pounds (40 kilograms).

It’s Carnival party time down in Cyprus March 3, 2008

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What’s on and where for the Carnival week celebrations in Cyprus

Carnival seems to be the perfect excuse for mass indulgence. Adhering to the codes of organised religion can certainly be tough, but that’s why some clever Italians back in the 1500s decided it was a good idea to hold wild parades just before the rigours of Lent set in. Then the rest of the Christian world felt that it was a brilliant idea to indulge in more food and drink than one can possibly handle, as glitzy costumes and musical performances gave humans a reason to rejoice in their faith of God. Sounds quite bizzare doesn’t it?

Interestingly, what first began as a festivity deeply rooted in pagan tradition slowly morphed into a worldwide fascination for getting dressed up or dressed down and a brilliant money-making occasion for clothes and accessory retailers who finally have an excuse to get rid of their most ridiculous attire.

Today, even Japan holds its own version of Latin Carnival as Tokyo’s Asakusa district comes to life with dancing girls, fabulous costumes and salsa sounds. They certainly aren’t preparing to say farewell to meat, but they can’t resist the temptation for a wild party.

Here in Cyprus, we may not be able to enjoy all the pizzazz that characterises the streets of Rio, but we still love to celebrate the occasion. As the invites for dress-up parties and dinners come through, it’s time to riffle through the wardrobe to find ‘the other you’ for the night. Whether you opt for the killer gangster look, a 1920s Broadway babe or a character from Star Wars, it’s all about daring to be someone different.

While festivities are organised across the island, Limassol is the real centre of activity. The fun begun on Thursday 28th February, Tsiknopempti in Greek, with a children’s parade down Pentadromos and Anexartisias Street. On Friday you had the chance to learn more about the history of the Limassol Carnival with a talk by journalist, Titos Kolotas, followed by a film screening on the whole occasion. Donkeys decked up in colourful gear, while the crowds sung and danced down village lanes, were some of the hallmarks of traditional carnival.

On Tuesday evening, the Limassol Municipality invites everyone to go along to the Medieval Castle Square in full costume where there will be lots of carnival merrymaking, music and dancing. Put on your best frock and prepare for a carnival costume competition with awards for the best three.

All the festivities will culminate in the Grand Festival Parade taking place this coming Sunday. You can expect the usual colourful procession down Archbishop Makarios III Avenue with the King of Carnival, giant papier-meche figures on floats, dancers in humorous and bizarre costumes, and a great deal of music by the Limassol Municipality Band. It’s all wonderfully cheesy and terribly tacky but carnival just wouldn’t be the same if it was any other way. The festivities will end with fireworks at the Medieval Castle Square.

If you’re looking for something a little different to all the customary celebrations around town, a touch of Latin fever is coming your way. Go along to the Patticheon Municipal Theatre in Limassol this Wednesday and you’ll get to watch Son Cubano in all their glory, as they jet in from Cuba to bring the true festive spirit to our shores.

Led by the well-known Cuban singer, Rene Maceo, the six band members are all graduates of the Havana Conservatorium, but were born and raised with the traditional music that fills the streets in the city centre. What better way to celebrate carnival than with a full Cuban band churning out a mixture of salsa, rumba and mambo?

Carnival Season Highlights >
March 2 >
Children’s Carnival Parade > Pentadromos-Anexartisias Street, 11.30am.
March 3 > History of Limassol Carnival > Lecture by journalist, Titos Kolotas, and screening of Limassol Carnival documentary. Panikos Mavrelis Cultural Centre, 71 Eirinis Street. Free. Tel 25 341572.
March 4 > Carnival Fiesta > Costume party with music and dancing. Medieval Castle Square. 8.30pm.
March 5 > Son Cubano > Live music by Cuban band led by the well known Rene Maceo and his company. Patticheon Municipal Theatre. 8.30pm. €20.50. Tel 25 878744.
March 9 > Grand Limassol Parade > Parade down Archbishop Makarios III Avenue. Starts 1.30pm, with a farewell carnival fiesta and fireworks at 8.30pm, Medieval Castle Square.

Programme is subject to unexpected changes, especially for outdoor events. General info > call 25 342153 or 25 745919.

It’s Carnival time in Cyprus March 3, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Greek Culture Heritage.
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King Carnival made a grand entrance with a colourful and festive display in Limassol, marking the beginning of Carnival festivities.

Limassol Mayor Andreas Christou said this year there would be a revival of the King Carnival, who entered the town at 7pm last Thursday. There are new additions to this year’s carnival, such as three exhibitions, performances by the Cuban band “Son Cubanos”, three satirical floats from the Greek town of Patra as well as five gala balls on different days.

03-03-08_carnival_limassol.jpg  The children’s carnival parade was held on Sunday, March 2, while the highlight of the festive season will be the grand Carnival parade on Sunday, March 9.

Carnival celebrations in Moschato March 3, 2008

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03-03-08_carnival.jpg  A performer breathes fire as fireworks go off as part of the Carnival celebrations in Moschato, southern Athens, yesterday.

Thousands of adults and children wearing fancy-dress costumes joined parades around Athens and other Greek cities yesterday to mark the penultimate Sunday of the Carnival season. Moschato holds Athens’s biggest parade but the main attraction of the festivities is the parade in Patras, which will be held next Sunday to mark the end of the Carnival season.