Timetables for travel to and from Corfu for this period.
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With its roots in Ancient Greece and an atmosphere redolent of Venice, the Corfu Carnival is arrayed in an old and illustrious wardrobe of clothes from Corfiot history and culture, from Barbarossa and Tartufo to Don Bazilio and Katona, as well as from contemporary citizens who have lent prestige to the island. Personalities and events from current affairs as well as the past are satirised with unrestrained humour, and the masked participants show no mercy towards their victims. If your first impression of the island at this time is unexpected and somewhat unusual, whether in tavernas, bars, alleyways or villages, you will soon realise that it is due to the lunacy of the season and the extravagance of the Ionian celebrations. Carnival developed from the ancient Greek festivals, from rites in honour of Dionysios, God of Wine, which took place at the start of Spring in order to procure a good harvest and successful breeding among the animal stock. With the passage of time, the Carnival celebrations were broadened , and here in Corfu were enhanced by Venetian influences, such as the traditional figures disguised as 'doctors' or 'notaries', the use of masks and soot to blacken the face.

The inspiration, the work and in general all the preparations for the floats which each team displays begin a year in advance at gatherings in tavernas and private houses. Here the craziest ideas are put forward, and the one that is chosen is kept completely secret until the moment of its first appearance on the streets of the town.

Celebrations begin on the first Sunday of Carnival, Asotos Sunday (Septuagesima), with a trial run of the Carnival procession through the town to check the floats, to start off the fun and to get everyone into the right mood.



Tsiknopempti (the last Thursday of Carnival)

As in the rest of Greece, Tsiknopempti is the day, or rather the night, when everyone is obliged to eat meat because the forty days of Lent and fasting follow, leading up to Easter. Thus groups of people meet up in tavernas and homes to celebrate, with, of course, the inevitable accompaniment of wine and guitars.

The Corfiot Petegoletsia (the Gossip) is re-enacted every year in the Old Town center and is a very old tradition of street theatre in which, from windows overlooking the alleyways, the women exchange scurrilous gossip about what is going locally, in authentic local dialect. The performance finishes with traditional singing and musicians.

The Carnival Procession

The climax of the celebrations is the impressive procession of King Carnival on the third and final Sunday. King Carnival is 'he who takes onthe burden of sins' of the authorities, responsible for whatever bad things have happened during the previous year. He is brought to trial and sentenced to death by fire, so that all evil is burnt with him. Thus the procession concludes with a bonfire in which King Carnival is cremated, then his will is read and a great party with music and dancing follows.

The Dance of the Priests

In the village of Episkepsis, on Tyrofagos (Cheese-eating) Sunday, in Agios Vassilis Square, a unique tradition takes place. The village priest leads off the dance called 'Doxa na.." and all the men of the village follow, each according to his age and his rank in the village. It is danced without instrumental music, the priest who leads chants the first verse and the rest of the dancers repeat them. At the end of the dance old women with musical instruments begin playing and then break into the traditional circular dance of Corfu. This custom can be found in other villages of the Oros region, but nowhere else in Greece. Charles Klimis, in his book 'Customs of the People of Corfu', considers the dance of the old women to be a relic of bacchanal rites dating back to around 500 BC.

The Holy Wedding

In Klimatia, Chlomos, Marathias, Kritika, Giannades and certain other villages, the tradition of the 'Holy Wedding' still continues. The 'Carnival Wedding', as it was called until 1960, used to be performed in the majority of Corfu's villages, but it slowly died out in most places, remaining only as a memory. But fortunately, in other places, the custom has been preserved. It takes place on 'Cheese-eating Sunday' (Tyrofagos or Tyrini), the last before Lent, and starts in the morning when the men of the village gather in one of the houses and dress the bridegroom. Meanwhile, in another heighbourhood, the women are dressing the 'bride'. The fact that the bride is actually a man, and moreover, moustachioed, probably owes itself to the rules of the patriarchial society, which forbade women to play an active part in the community activities. A demon in the form of a satyr also takes part in the marriage rites, doing its best to spoil the wedding. Throughout the whole ceremony the villagers shout obscenities without a break, teasing each other constantly.



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