Carnival time is riotous in Greece

The people of Brazil are known for the vibrant way in which they celebrate Carnival each year in preparation for Lent and then Easter.  In Brazil, Carnival lasts for two weeks, but the Greeks have been doing Carnival longer, and for longer – in Greece, Carnival can last for three months.

In Greece, carnivals are a major art form and the long festive preparations for the events fill the cities of Greece with joy and excitement. The Carnival season reaches its peak with the extravagant Sunday parades of giant floats and colourful groups.

The Carnival in Xanthi is incomparable and offers an unforgettable experience for anyone lucky enough to visit this northern city at Carnival time.   The city of Xanthi, is also called `the noble lady of Thrace’.

The event stands out for its focus on the traditions and folklore of the region, though a modern approach is taken which is free of extraneous elements and graceless influences. People gyrate in disguise through the streets, playing pranks and generally having a good time. Over 40 cultural associations participate in the Carnival program and set up their stalls in the streets of the city to wine and dine the guests with plenty of local wine and delicacies.

Numerous folk and cultural celebrations will take place as part of the famous carnival. The festivities which take place during the period of the carnival include concerts, theatre plays, music and dance nights, exhibitions, a cycling event, games on the streets, and re-enactments of old customs.    

Look out for the custom “To kápsimo tou Tzárou” (the burning of Tzaros), a custom of Eastern Thrace, re-enacted every year in the district of Samakov close to the River Kossynthos in Xanthi. A local tradition in Eastern Thrace, the “Tzáros” or “Tzárous” is a human effigy placed on top of a pile of brushwood. It took the name “Tzáros” from the noise that is produced by the burning wood “tz,tz,tz…”. It is a custom to burn the “Tzáros” in the middle of a neighbourhood, square or on a hill on the last Sunday of the Carnival (“Tyrine Sunday”) so that people will not have to put up with fleas during the summer months. The end of the event is marked by an extravagant firework display.

You can really get into the magic of the Carnival Night Parade, when all the participating crews of the Great Sunday Carnival Parade dance past to a delirious Carnival rhythm. The parade ends up in the Central Square, where the feast continues with a wild party.

The highlight of the Carnival celebrations is the Great Carnival Parade, which is a float parade that is held on the evening of the final day. Floats with thousands of masked revellers fill the streets of the town with music and colours to accompany the King of the Carnival. The celebration culminates late at night with the ceremonial burning of the effigy of the King on the banks of the River Kóssynthos.

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