Patras Carnival

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Αφίσα Καρναβαλιού.jpg

The Carnival is the modern version of the Dionysian Mysteries, one of the most important carnivals in Europe and the most crowded one in terms of its active participants.
It embraces thousands of Greek and foreign youths who flood the streets of Patra every February to unwind the city’s biological clock and have fun until the early morning hours. It is an outdoor fest of inestimable intensity of joy, with parades of floats and hundreds of crews that lasts for a whole month and attracts tourists from all over the world.

History: The starting event of the Patra’s Carnival was a masquerade ball thrown in 1829,karnavali1.jpg a few years after the liberation of Greece.However the carnival, as most carnival events in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, is strongly connected with ancient pagan rituals, as those that honor Dionysus. According to these traditions, in the heart of the winter, the faithful invoke the deity with special feasts and he is reborn in order to bring spring once again.
Soul of the Carnival is the tens of thousands masqueraded youths, visitors and friends of Patra’s Carnival, people of all ages who participate in events such as masquerade balls, celebration in homes, neighborhoods, clubs, cafes, restaurants e.t.c.

έναρξη καρναβαλιού.jpgThe Opening Ceremony: Each year, in February, the town crier makes his appearance in the streets of Patra, in the form of a musical float, and announces with all the carnival solemnities the beginning of Patra’s Carnival, inviting all residents to gather in the evening of that day to the central square of King George, in order to attend the Opening Ceremony. There, during the spectacular and with many elements of surprise celebration, the Mayor of Patra declares, from the balcony of the Apollo Theater, the opening of the Carnival.

Tsiknopempti: (A compound word originating from the words tsikna = the smell of roast food and Pempti = Thursday).
The celebration of Tsiknopempti has a special color as on that day, hundreds of citizens set outdoor barbeques at the Patra’s streets and especially, at the German street and upper town where special events take place. Carnival events and musical troupes complement the evening of wine and roast meat consumption. This Thursday, a week before the Carnival, revives a typical tradition called “the marriage of Giannoulas Koulourous”.γάμος κουλουρούς.JPG
Giannoula was a real person, a poor woman who lived in the Upper Town, in the period before the Second World War, and used to sell cookies to ensure her livelihood. Some citizens, taken advantage of her naivety, used to promise her that they will marry her to the President of America, Wilson. The hoax embraced the arrival of the President by boat to the harbor and then the marriage with Giannoula at the Upper Town. The gullible Giannoula, welcomed the alleged Wilson, Ioulso as she used to pronounce him, who was dressed with tails, but by the time she realized the irony of the moment, the crowd gathered for the wedding had had lots of fun. The event was repeated for several years.

The Children’s Carnival
: An important innovation of the last decade and European exclusivity of the Patra’s Carnival is the Children’s Carnival καρναβάλι των μικρών.jpgwhich culminates with the Grand Parade, each Sunday of the Prodigal Son. On this day, thousands of children from Patra and all over Greece parade through the streets in groups (kindergartens, schools, dance schools etc).καρναβάλι μικρών.jpg

Songs for this occasion have been written while contests and games are being organized specially for the kids. The City’s Carnival Workshop makes special floats inspired by popular fairy tales, while at Ipsila Alonia square, the Carnival City is being set with giant joyful constructionw of carnival character with which children can play. The Children’s Carnival is totally safe for the participants as teachers and guardians parade along with the children.

κρυμμένος θησαυρός.jpgTreasure Hunt: The Groups constitute of either permanent companies of revelers or bevies from the city's high schools and lyceums, work colleagues, or neighborhood friends. The Carnival groups do not only participate in parades but also in the games and contests of the Treasure Hunt that consist of questions on history,literature, maths or practical knowledge, the ability to find their way through hidden evidence scattered all over the city, artistic painting, pantomime and theatrical sketch contests or whatever else the organizers might come up with.

παιχνίδι.jpg The teams' performances in the various phases of the game are rated in order to nominate the grand winner.

Bourboulia.jpgBourboulia: A traditional and exclusively a Patra’s custom. Evening dances in which ladies have free entrance, without escort but in a long, large and black domino dress and mask in order not to be recognized but to have the initiative to choose their escorts. In years when the relationships between the two genders were strictly monitored, the Bourbouli was the annual escape as well as the place of real or imaginary romantic adventures. These dances are still being held for the tradition to be kept alive.
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Closing Ceremony: On the last Sunday of the Carnival, just before Ash Monday, at 8 pm, the traditional burning of the float of the Carnival King takes place at the port with concerts, dances and many fireworks, saying this way goodbye to the Carnival that ended and welcoming the next one that just begins.