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Carnival in Zakinthos


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Carnival in Zakinthos

  2. 2. ZAKYNTHOS: A Flashback to the Carnival of the Past The carnival in Zakynthos is traced back to the times of the Venetian Occupation (12th- 18th Century). Those days, the festivities started on January 7th and lasted till the last day of the Apokries. In 1840, however, the government of the Ionian State reduced the Carnival period for two weeks. In fact, people used to dress up on Burnt Thursday (Shrove Thursday or “Tsiknopempti”) night and as a result, the festivities lasted only for eleven days. Female masqueraders were called “maskares’’ and the male ones were called ‘’dottoroi’’. There were two casinos (clubs for the noble men) on the island at that time which held fancy dress parties every day, from 3 pm till 5 pm and from 8 pm till midnight. Evening parties were very successful. In addition to the casinos, which were popular with noblemen, there were “Cavalkines”, as well. These were places which common people (the ‘’Popolaroi’’) rented only for the Carnival period and converted them into music halls. Folk theatre, ‘’Omilies’’ or ‘’Parlates’’ is a Carnival tradition, which has been passed to the current generation, as one of the most amicable celebrations of the common people (the “Popolaroi”). It is a kind of street theatre and it has its origins in the period of the Venetian domination. Common people felt the need to satirize the nobles of the island and their way of life with performances of wandering actors. At first, “Omilies” were well-known tragedies or novels adapted. The Cretan influence was evident because “Erotokritos”, “Erofili” and the “Sacrifice of Abraham” were their favourites. The “Omilies” took place both in the villages and in the city of Zakinthos usually in squares. The performances used to be announced by a town- crier and this tradition is still maintained today, so don’t wonder what is this man doing in the middle of Dionysius Solomos Square on the last day of the Carnival. The actors were male and they played even the female roles. This is what happens today, as well.
  3. 3. Another Greek Carnival custom, which is maintained in Zakinthos, is the “Gaitanaki” (Maypole). Since old times, in the middle of the squares, people used to put up a high wooden pole. Colorful ribbons (called “gaitainia”) were hanging from the pole. Each of the ‘’Maskares’’ (dressed- up women) would hold the end of each ribbon and start dancing round the pole in such a way that the ‘’gaitania’’ would be wrapped around it. When all ribbons were wrapped, they started dancing the other way round to “unwrap” them. This dance is called ‘’ gaitanaki’’ and is still performed today all over Greek provinces only during the Carnival period. Looking back in the past, it is worth mentioning that middle-class women would not be allowed to get around on their own apart from going to the church. However, during the Carnival period, they could go out on their own being dressed up, of course, and have fun till dawn. They were free to dance and flirt with anyone they liked because their masks would cover their faces and no-one would recognize them. As you imagine, this custom is not maintained in our days because women have the same rights as men do and they are free to enjoy themselves. Another tradition that is maintained till today is the children’s carnival. Wealthy children were dressed up in expensive costumes such as navy officers, Scottish, Catholic priests etc. Those days, however, children could not choose their costume. Their parents decided for them. Their aim was to offer an enjoyable sight to the public and not enjoy themselves. On the last night of the carnival (Cheese-eating Sunday), the bells would toll at midnight and the festivities would come to an end. People would take out their masks to reveal their faces and go home. Nowadays, the Carnival period is a celebration for all the people of Zakinthos and every foreigner or tourist who happens to come to the island. It involves dressing up, eating the traditional dishes, drinking the sweet Zakinthian wine and dancing. It ends with the “Tyrinee” (Cheese- eating) Sunday, after the parade of the masqueraders and the floats and the “Funeral of the Mask”. It is a special ceremony which ends with the burning of the Carnival King (a float) and which will be described later.
  4. 4. TSIKNOPEMPTI (Burnt Thursday or Shrove Thursday) It is always on the second week of the Triodio (during the Meat-eating week). The main feature of this day is the grilling of the meat “tsiknisma”. “Tsikna” in Greek refers to the smell that is given off when fatty meat is roasted in the open air. “Pempti” is the Greek word for “Thursday”. This is why it is called Tsiknopempti. The “Sunday” which follows “Tsiknopempti” is the last day that eating meat is allowed and this is why it is called “Meat-eating Sunday». There are various traditions connected with Tsiknopempti all over Greece: for example: Serres (Eastern Macedonia): People light big fires in the open ground. They grill meat and then they jump over them. Comotini (Thrace): On “Tsiknopempti”, people usually grill chickens which they eat on Cheese-eating Sunday. Engaged couples send to each other grilled chickens and a traditional sweet, called “baklavas”. Corfu (Ionian island): In the old city of Corfu, women re-enact the old tradition of gossiping (called “Koutsobolia”, or “Petegoletsia”) in the local dialect. They talk to each other standing at the windows of their houses about their fellow-citizens’ secret love affairs and they satirize them. In the end, men sing “kantades” under their windows and everything comes to an end. SKOPELOS (Sporades island) All the inhabitants of the village Klima take part in a festivity including eating roast meat, drinking wine and dancing the whole night till next morning. PELOPONNESE Throughout the regions of Peloponnese people slay pigs and prepare delicious “mezedes” (appetizers) such as sausages, “pihti” “tsigarides” and various dishes containing pork for this special day. Then, they organize parties and enjoy themselves eating, drinking and dancing.