Carnival in Avliotes, 2012

The royal wedding of William & Kate.

Every year for the last 160 or so years,  Avliotes has been holding a carnival to bring some joy to the long sullen winter and make fun of life’s ‘slings and arrows’.  The day this occurs is on ‘Kathari Deftera’, Clean Monday which is the first day of lent in the Greek Orthodox church.  This day falls 7 weeks before Greek Easter.  The period of 4 days before ‘Clean Monday’ are filled with lively parties, parades, and other traditional festivities wherever Carnivals in Corfu are celebrated.

Carnival in Avliotes, 2012

Most people would never associate the Greeks with carnival but in truth they invented it!… Yes, I know what you are thinking, ‘not carnival as well!’, but just think about it.  Most carnival related festivities are associated with the ancient worship of the Greek god of wine and intoxication, Dionysus.  The processions, costuming, and feasting all derive from ancient ceremonies honoring him.  The Dionysian rites were based on a seasonal death-rebirth theme and the cleansing of the spirit through intoxication, dance and music to liberate the individual from inhibitions and social constraints.

Friendly Witches

After carnival , Greeks follow a strict 40 day of fasting plus the final holy week of Easter to prepare the themselves for the celebration of the death and resurrection of the Christ.  I have always wondered to myself why such a long period of fasting and tried to answer it without thinking about the religious aspect of the answer.  The reason I came up with was more of bare necessity than any spiritual reasoning.  Winter can be long and cruel especially in a world without any refrigeration. People needed a time of grace to allow animals to raise their young without the treat of slaughter or else they would be too young to kill.

Golden Boys

Our carnival in Avliotes is hosted by the town’s very own inhabitants.  All the outlandish costumes are made by the locals and everyone tries to outdo the other in presentation and style sometimes to the point of obscenity.  One would think there is much rivalry between the parading groups but in truth there is much camaraderie between everyone! Most of the themes are politically related or something current in the news.  The week before we parade through the main street there is a buzz of activity with people planning, groups ironing out their details, while the town is decorated, and carnival music is blasting through the streets.  This year, 2012, we had a few topics that concerned themselves with the unjust loans Greece was given.  One example to this: Germany would borrow money at a low rate of half a percent then lent it back to Greece for as much a 6 percent.  Through similar topics the ordinary town’s people would be able to release their stress and show their displeasure over daily circumstances.

King Carnival (Basilias Carnavalos)

At the end of the parade, there follows the burning of the Karnavalos (King Carnival), which is said to carry all the troubles of the locals. There is a will read which normally contains all the grievances and bad things that have happened during the previous year.   The will is normally in couplets and it contains many puns, innuendos and double entendres. The Karnavalos is burnt in a bonfire among great partying and dancing around it.

Of course this signifies the banishment of all our problems and the beginning of life anew… sadly, if it could only be that easy!!


7 thoughts on “Carnival in Avliotes, 2012

    • Hi Catherine,
      Had a look at this link. It really must put things into perspective for a lot of people who may not fully realise how awful all these cuts are. We have a similar problem where I live, although for the time being it is not so bad as the Greek situation, but I really do feel for them. Cheer, Judy

  1. Once again, an interesting update on Avliotes. Won’t be long untill we will be relaxing “under the vines” with Ialias and George. (to the right hand side of your first picture, unseen).

  2. Carnivals are also widely celebrated throughout Spain and the Basque country where I live, in a pretty similar way. They say that the nights between the winter and summer solstices were long in the Basque farmhouses and hence the Carnivals were born. No really it heralded the beginning of Lent and to a period of denial and fasting which Christians adhered to until Easter. A sort of letting your hair down and generally having a good time in anticipation of the fasting to come. Carnivals were banned during the Franco regime but in spite of this prohibition, some places still managed to continue celebrating by disguising it as a Spring Festival or giving it some such other name. I actually thought it was a pagan festival that dated from Roman or Egyptian times. Everything kicks off with the “chupinazo” (starting rocket) and then there is a big parade down the main street, quite tame really and mostly for kids with floats with different animals and such like. The fiesta proper starts in the evening when the old part of the city if filled with all sorts of groups of people dressed-up in all sorts of gear. Some people make a political statement and others just do what they fancy…anything goes!
    The squares are filled with musical acts and the people enjoying themselves having a few wines and pintxos ( bar snacks some almost like little dishes in themselves), not forgetting the typical tostadas de carnival (a sort of fried custard) which everyone has for desert. The party ends sometime later when the symbol of the Carnival the Sardine is burnt and thrown in the river.

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