Patras Carnival

Carnival ... .its creation is a blend of different cultural elements: a) long-established Halloween traditions of Greece and Patras b) influences from the Western Europe, particularly Italy and the neighboring Ionian islands c) innovations that emerged during carnival celebrations in Patras. As to the first, carnival, like most carnival events in the Mediterranean and the Balkans is linked with ancient pagan rituals and events, such as those in honor of god Dionysus. In the heart of winter, the faithful through special celebrations invoked the divinity, which was considered to be reborn in order to bring again spring. Similar events continued after the spread of Christianity.

The famous carnival of the city vibrates in intense fun pace throughout its duration. Fun, imaginative mood and endless vividness are the main components for 180 years, making every year special and unique.

Every year the start of the event takes place on January 17 and last until Clean Monday. A number of parties, dances and concerts construct the festivity program that culminates the night of the "podarati" parade on Saturday and the spectacular parade of floats and crews on Sunday. The carnival’s soul is thousands masqueraded who spontaneously and creatively participate in the preparations and the Carnival celebrations. All this fun and entertaining mood attracts every year thousands of visitors from all over Greece who either watch or take part themselves in the events.

The dances, «Bourboulia», and the lost treasure hunting, which ends on the last Sunday with the big parade of crews involved, really makes every moment exciting for children and grown-ups..

The Bourboulia are surrounded with mystery, and consist an important part of Patras Carnival. The Bourboulia, highlight each woman who participates as the absolute ascendant of a unique full of mystery carnival courtship. All women are required to wear a thin long black garment with a hood and mask -the Ntomino- allowing only to show the eyes. Bourboulia was born through the social restrictions of the time and were the only "escape" for women in time. 

The Treasure Hunt is composed of permanent carnival companies, school groups of the city, colleagues from work or acquaintances from the neighbourhood. The games include questions regarding history, literature, mathematics or practical knowledge, navigation exercises through hidden indicative figures dispersed throughout the city, artistic painting competitions, mime, theatrical shots and anything else the organizers of the game can come out with. The performance of the teams in every phase of the game is being graded and so emerges the great winner. The recent years also people from other cities who want not just to watch the Carnival but also participate in events, can become members of the teams.

The celebration of “Tsiknopempti” has special colour in Patras due to the influence of the carnival. On that day hundreds of people do barbeques at every point of the city. But the heart of the event is the Upper Town, the old neighborhood called Tassi and especially Germanou street and the streets around it. Folk and carnival activities and music troupes complete that evening of plentiful consumption of roast meat and wine. Back in the days, before the Carnival day, on Tsiknopempti there was the revival of a typical tradition, "the marriage of Yiannoula, the cruller seller." Yiannoula was a real person, it was a poor woman of the Upper town who lived in the period before the Second World War and made her living by selling crullers. Some locals taking advantage of her naivety and her imaginative character promised her that they would marry her with President of the United States of America, Wilson. That prank included Wilson's arrival by boat in the harbour and his ascent to the Upper Town where the marriage with Giannoula would be held. The gullible cruller seller welcomed the supposed Wilson, Iulso as she used to call him, who was always dressed formally, but until she realized the irony of the moment, people gathered for the wedding, was laughing with his soul. This spectacle was repeated for several years.

The top event of Patras Carnival is the Big Parade, where first appear the carnival chariots of the Municipality followed by the endless groups of the hidden treasure. Despite the satisfactory flow of the parade, because of the huge number of the participants (from 35,000 to 40,000 in recent years), it lasts several hours. It crosses the city and is being watched by thousands of spectators on the sidewalks, the balconies of the houses and the stands and also is broadcasted by television, as the Saturday parade as well, through the national channel.

The closing ceremony is the traditional burning of the Carnival’s chariot with concerts, dances, farewell to the carnival ended and announcements for the new one coming and all these followed by many fireworks. It is held at the port on Sunday evening and is also broadcasted by television. 

For the carnival season events program click here

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