Greek carnival has its roots in ancient Greece and is connected with the worship of the god Bacchus, or Dionysus, god of wine and celebration. The word carnival comes from the Latin words “carrus navalis” which means wheel boat. During the Eleusinian Mysteries (which are similar to the bacchanalia, the wild and mystic festivals of the god Bacchus/Dionysos), there used to be a procession where Athena’s (goddess of wisdom and courage) believers carried her veil to the Parthenon. In the procession there was always a little boat with wheels.
Later, during the eastern Empire, the Carnival was all about dressing up and having fun. The poor used to masquerade as rich, men used to masquerade as women; animal’s costumes were also very popular. However, most of the times, people used to masquerade either to help bring about good will or to trick evil spirits. Despite Christianity and the church’s oppositions, the Carnival survived and evolved to become as we know it today.
Today, there are many different carnival parades going on all over Greece .
The inhabitants of Tyrnavos still honor the god Dionyssos with various festivities. The most significant of these is the cooking of the "bourani', a vegetable soup which is served on Ash Monday. During the cooking, the "bourani people" do a lot of teasing with phallic symbols.
During the carnival period (Triodion), most inhabitants of Galaxidi wander about the streets dressed in carnival costumes. In every neighbourhood, people light large fires, to dance, eat, drink and have fun. The inhabitants of Galaxidi do not attack each other with streamers, confetti and other carnival "ammunition", but they prefer to sprinkle their fellow citizens with flour and ashes instead.
The main celebration here is the "Vlach's Wedding" every year on Ash Monday, which begins on the morning of the first day of Lent. It's an old custom started in 1830. The spectacle is unique because of the colourful wedding parade and the accompanying traditional music (bag pipes and tabors).
Each weekend during carnival, the island's customs require the "Yeros" (old man) and the "Korela" (girl) to go out in the streets. The "old man" wears a thick black cloak, white woven breeches and has two or three rows of bells tied round his waist, which together can weigh up to 50 kilos. His face is covered with a goat fleece and he dances in the street, so that the bells he is wearing jangle melodiously. The "Korela", the old man's partner, is dressed in the traditional white costume of Skyros, in striking contrast with the Yeros' black clothes. She too has her face covered. She dances round the old man, opening the way for him or attempting to help him or get him to rest.
Each weekend during carnival, the island's customs require the "Yeros" (old man) and the "Korela" (girl) to go out in the streets. The "old man" wears a thick black cloak, white woven breeches and has two or three rows of bells tied round his waist, which together can weigh up to 50 kilos. His face is covered with a goat fleece and he dances in the street, so that the bells he is wearing jangle melodiously.
The "Korela", the old man's partner, is dressed in the traditional white costume of Skyros, in striking contrast with the Yeros' black clothes. She too has her face covered. She dances round the old man, opening the way for him or attempting to help him or get him to rest.
During the days of carnival, townspeople relive the traditional custom called "BOULAS" and that of the "JANISSARY" - GENITSAROS. There is a parade with traditional and satirical costumes. The history of the dance group goes back to 1705. In that year the people of Naoussa honoured the memory of their young fellow-citizens, who fell in the struggle against the Turks. They appear during carnival dressed in the uniforms of the freedom-fighters with wax masks and breastplates made out of thousands of silver coins. The costumes, the music and the dances are all authentic and have been handed down from generation to generation without any modern influences.
The Patra Carnival is one of the most important events, not only in the city's own area, but in the country as a whole. The opening ceremony is the starting-point of the events and at the same time an invitation to the people of Patra to take an active part in it.
The BOURBOULIA , together with the Treasure Hunt, are the oldest (1872 aprox.) and most popular events of the Patra Carnival. All residents of the area, together with other revellers from all over Greece or from abroad, participate in the fun. In the old times, women couldn't go out at night and have fun during carnival celebrations.
On the second Thursday of the Carnival - Tsiknopempti - and for four days and nights, more than 30,000 people take part in carnival celebrations, most of whom are active members of the Treasure Hunt, while more than 300,000 people have the opportunity to have fun watching the parades, dancing and singing.
The main features of event itself in recent years have been the high spirits of the carnival, the oath of participation and the decoration of the city centre, as well as the first official appearance of the Carnival Queen and the Carnival train which leaves Athens and passes through many other cities.
In the evening of the last Sunday of the Carnival, the Carnival King is called upon to bid farewell to his subjects and to arrange a date for next year. The customary meeting of all crews on the central quay of the harbour, the firing of the Carnival King, the endless dancing and the astonishing fireworks are unforgettable memories for the visitors.