Carnival PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 October 2006 22:13

Whereas at religious feasts and weddings the moral values of the community are reconfirmed in a positive manner, during the Carnival period (Apókries) they are sanctioned and reinforced through their intentional, though limited, negation. The world of Carnival is a man's world, especially a young man's. They plan their pranks for weeks in advance and recount them for years afterwards. Carnival exploits are group exploits, with roles delegated by an acknowledged leader who is responsible for their co-ordination. These come to a head on the final Sunday (tis Tyrinís) and Shrove Monday {Katharí Deftéra), the beginning of Lent.

The focus of everyone's attention are the disguises which are, of course, devised from readily available materials and represent subjects familiar to all. Animals are particularly popular: the donkey with its long ears, the billy goat with its horns, the camel with its hump, the hen with her feathers. Other firm favourites are village personalities: the priest and his wife, the teacher and his pupils, the bey and his underlings, the bride and groom. Sometimes the original subject has been forgotten and the disguise is merely intended to conceal the identity of its wearer, to surprise, frighten or arouse curiosity. The revellers wear masks, sheepskins and old clothes, they paint their faces black, white or red and hang large sheep bells about themselves.

The masqueraders, known as arápdis, karnavália, katsíveloi, skylaraíoi, moutsoùnes, arkoudiaraíoi and a host of other names, proceed from house to house, singing their songs and dancing with the householders. They tease the girls, scare the children and poke fun at the old men. When they arrive at the village square they form a circle, eat a pie they have baked themselves, drink and dance. In some places they perform short satyrical sketches, ridiculing familiar situations and typical village characters. Bonfires are lit and the revellers dance around them, either the usual dances with absurd and exaggerated movements, or special dances with ribald songs and rather lewd gestures: such as "Pos to trívoun to pipéri" (How they grind the pepper) where the dancers rub against the ground with different parts of their body, or "Aghía Sotíra" in which hands are linked between the legs. Such songs and dances are not exclusive to Carnival but are performed on other occasions of social license, such as the end of the wedding feast.
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