Monday, February 1, 2010
Carnival time in Corfu begins
Of course I decided at that point I wanted to live in Venice so I could enjoy Carnival for several weeks instead of just for a one time shot of "mardi gras"!
Then we found Corfu.
Corfu owes its particular spin on Carnival more to years of history as part of the Venetian Republic. From 1386 to 1797, Corfu was ruled by Venetian nobility. Still the island is a part of Greece so traditions are lifted from many sources and unique to the island alone.
Mixed in with the wonderful and sometimes wacky view of Carnival is of course the traditional religious overtones of Lent. Harbored deep underneath all of that though is a long tradition in ancient times of the festivals of Dionysis.
Costumes and masks that would be familiar in Venice are seen on the streets here. The people in costume pose as well, and they go about their business as if you were invisible. (It's like being inside of a play!) There are also of course processions and fanfares and marching bands.
small child in San Marco Square Venice- he was so cute I couldn't resist!
In Greek Carnival is called Apokries, referring to Lent and the abstention from eating meat.
Carnival here covers four Sunday's but only on the second (the Sunday of the Prodigal Son), third (couldn't find a name for this one - but I'm sure there is one!) and last are there public celebrations. The final Sunday (called Tyrofagos or Tyrini - also called Cheese-eating Sunday) is a riot of color and confetti, a grand parade of church and people with the priests and the costumed school children and adults, and floats, all together, to process along with marching band music and celebration. At night - weather permitting- is a great fireworks display.
"Tsiknopempti" is the equivalent of Pancake Day and loosely translates as barbecue Thursday. This is the Thursday of, as it's called in Greece, Meatfare Week. Tsiknopempti is the evening that everyone is obliged to eat meat because the forty days of Lent are about to start. Restaurants closed for the season, reopen for this day all over the island and families and friends gather round for a lovely eating and drinking spree usually to the sounds of live music. Wandering musicians play Kantades and Mantolinates in the streets of the old city of Corfu.
In Corfu there is a unique custom called "the Corfiot Petegoletsia" or "Petegolia"on the last Thursday of Carnival. It translates to Gossip, which is actually related more to the old tradition of street theatre. In the narrow streets of old town- called "kantounia" lined by ancient houses, women standing in their windows exchange scurrilous gossip about local affairs in an authentic Corfiot dialect. Nothing is sacred, and everything is funny. (IF you understand the local Corfiot dialect!) The performance ends with traditional songs and mandolin music.
The climax of the celebration is the final parade and King Carnival is responsible for whatever bad things happened during the previous year. He's brought to trial and sentenced to death by fire so all evil spirit are burnt with him. At the end of the procession king Carnival is cremated, his will is read and a big party, with singing and dancing, begins.
Finally the day after the excesses of Carnival is called "Clean Monday" (which is also the first day of Lent) The foods allowed must all be "pure" (without shedding blood). Still this allows cuttlefish and squid and fish roe as well as beans and pulses. "Lagana" is a flat bread traditionally served on this day.
(I love Clean Monday as, weather permitting, everyone goes to the beach to have a picnic, and fly kites!)
So the important Carnival/Easter dates for this year...
Easter is the same this year for both the Orthodox and the Christian Church. April 4, 2010.
40 days before the beginning of Lent, Carnival begins on Saturday evening with the opening of the "Triodion", a book containing sacred odes. This is a religious moment and not usually observed outside of the church (so no party!) Triodion Sunday, January 24, 2010
Tsiknopempti or Burnt Thursday, February 4, 2010.
Tsiknopempti Weekend: Friday, February 5th through Sunday February 7, 2010
Main Carnival Weekend: Friday February 12th through Sunday February 14, 2010.
Clean Monday (or Ash Monday): February 15
[Ash Wednesday: February 17, 2010.]
Palm Sunday: March 28, 2010.
Maundy (Holy)Thursday: April 1, 2010
Good Friday: April 2, 2010
Easter Sunday April 4, 2010.