Avliotes Carnival 2014

This year’s Avliotes Carnival on the north-west side of Corfu in Greece, despite its usual problems of weather and last minute arrangements, went without a hitch.  It was blessed with a mild warm day and a huge turnout even though it was raining in the morning!

This year’s theme, if there was a theme to the carnival,  would be of ‘politicians that don’t keep their promises’!  This of course is nothing new nor is it something which happens only in Greece but it exist everywhere!

This years Karnabalos (Carnival King) is of a politician asking to be re-elected! The carnival participants were satirizing daily life through the various floats in the parade:  for example when will roads be completed ,  filling in the endless pot holes,  trusting political parties since they got us into this crisis,  the graft and corruption which have made our politicians wealthy!

Lampooning these conditions is an outlet for our anger and impotence to change things.  A way to let off some steam, sadly our politicians are immune to our cries of dissatisfaction!

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Avliotes Carnival 2013

This year’s carnival had its share of difficulties as it rained from the start of the day and did not finished until the start of the carnival.  The parade started late even by the normal Greek standards.  As is the custom, it would start at around 4 pm but it was well after 5 pm that the festivities began.  It was a wet, cold and windy day but ‘neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’ of our annual carnival celebrations.  Normally on this day, we would have a live band playing but we had to cancel them as it would have been too cold for people to congregate in the village square.

The Avliotes carnival always tries to be current with all the news of the day and the election of the Pope is once such case in point. This may coincide with the hopes the Greeks have for a better tomorrow while satirizing the present.

The procession of cardinals in Avliotes!

The procession of cardinals in Avliotes!

The new Pope arrives in his bullet-proof pope-mobile!

The new Pope arrives in his bullet-proof pope-mobile!

Cleopatra and Mark Anthony were doomed partners as some of the European partners seem to be of late.

The love of Anthony and Cleopatra comes second to the love ot our Avliotes Carnival!

The love of Anthony and Cleopatra comes second to the love of our Avliotes Carnival!

Rebetika is one of those Greek words that has no translation in English. What started out as Greece’s underground music for the malcontent is has become Greece’s national music enjoyed by new and old alike.  The music was full of passion, melancholy tales of the hashish smoking habits that came with them from Smyrna, of love, death and of daily life.  The people who sang and danced rebetika lived their own lives, nobody owned them and nobody was going to own them.  They were free even if they were behind bars!

The original rebetika music was the laiki or popular music, the music of a new Greece, a Greece free of strife.

The original rebetika music was the laiki or popular music, the music of a new Greece, a Greece free of strife.

Times are harsh and with electricity becoming more and more unfordable people are going back to the old ways of cooking with wooden ovens and heating their house with fireplaces!

Back to the old fashion ovens.

Back to the old fashion ovens.

The first Greek rebetes were called Manges. The manges were seen as usually smartly dressed men and women who spent most of their time in ouzeris, cafes, brothels and even prisons. Fights were immanent as they were petty criminals, persons of the underworld. This all changed from the late 1950’s to become the main stream music of Greece.

Mπεκρήδες

Mπεκρήδες

Greece’s politicians have brought us into the crisis we are now facing though none of them have been brought to justice though some have but they have prison cells which are not the norm for all.

Some political prisoners have it easier than others.

Some political prisoners have it easier than others.

After the grand parade of masked troupes and floats the Karnabalos (King Carnival) is last to parade and it culminates in the ceremonial burning of the effigy of King Carnival in the village square. This year it has been symbolically portrayed as a rich Arab sheik  as they have been buying up Greek islands and Greek football teams as of late.  Mind you, the Arabs are not the only ones buying up Greek (and Cypriot) interests only!

Lets hope that 2013 will be a great year for all of us!!

‘King of the Carnival’

‘King of the Carnival’

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!!