Sunday, the last day before Lent, according to the Christian Orthodox calendar, saw the culmination of Carnival celebrations across Greece.
Helped by the sunny weather, many thousands took part in the processions and other celebrations of Carnival.
The best known event, in Patras, Greece’s third largest city, attracted some 40,000 revelers. The carnival procession included a Chinese troupe, “Flying Dragons and Dancing Lions – Team of Cuigezhuang Township”.
If Patras represents the modern version of the Greek Carnival, internationalized and more than a bit garish, other cities stage celebrations based on old traditions, as in Naoussa, home of the “Genitsaroi and Boules” (“Soldiers and Brides”) procession with references to ancient coming-of-age rites _ for males only, of course _ and to the resistance to the Turkish occupation.
“Boules,” the brides, are actually young men dressed in womens’ clothes, as they were in the ancient coming-of-age rites, before they were accepted as adult men. “Genitsaroi” refers to the Janissaries, the elite armed corps of the Ottoman Empire, initially made up of Christian boys forcibly removed from their homes and raised to become the Sultan’s trusted soldiers. (Later, the Janissaries became a hereditary corps and were eliminated in 1826 by a Sultan aware that their days as an elite troop were over but they could be useful in a palace coup).
In other cities, such as Corfu, carnival celebrations are a mixture of the traditional and the modern.
Monday, “Clean Monday” or the first day of Lent, is tomorrow, and continuing good weather should help with the observation of customs such as kite-flying and open-air dining on seafood.