The Corfu Carnival
The Carnival in Greece has its roots in the ancient Greek Dionysian festivals but Corfu Carnival is a different matter. The Corfu Carnival is based on the Carnival of Venice and was adopted by Corfiots during the period of the Venetian occupation. The Venetians brought their own carnival customs to Corfu and combined them with local Corfiot traditions thus influencing the Corfu Carnival over the years.
The Corfu Carnival in town
Princesses, marquises, barons and countesses in their rich Venetian costumes walk around the town centre, transporting us back to a bygone era. Reminiscent of a fairy tale, they mingle in their coloured and golden masks following the Ionian customs of fun and spicy gossip.
The Corfu Carnival maintains to this day a special grandeur compared to other carnivals in Greece. It is heavily influenced by the wealth and glamour of old Venice, encompassing the frivolity of the Venetian “ladies” of the time and the ostentatious style of the Venetian rulers.
In contrast to this stand the Corfiot “petegoletsas”, a satirical performance with spicy gossip commenting on everything currently happening on the island.
The “petegoletsas” take place in the heart of the old town in the “fanestres”, the windows of the traditional houses. There you can hear about all the skeletons that normally remain well hidden in the closets.
The performance is a conversation, always in the Corfiot vernacular, between two to four opposite windows of buildings in the heart of the town. The gossip begins and the ‘dirty laundry’ is publically aired with no mercy!
Corfiot “Petegoletsas” belong to the street theatre genre, and have many elements of Commedia dell Arte. They take place on the Thursday of the third week of Carnival.
Other events during the Corfu Carnival are parties, carnival songs, dances and events from the other Greece, the “Kratodikeio”, the “Venetian perantzada”, the “Gaitanaki”, and the “treasure hunt”.
On the last Sunday the grand parade of the Venetian Carnival takes place. Various teams from the island’s clubs, dance schools, and groups of local people answer the Carnival’s call, turning the whole of Corfu town into a joyful celebration with the aroma of Venice.
In earlier years, the events, which then would take place indoors, were attended by lords and nobles both local and foreign. Masked costume balls were held in these places, evoking the festive atmosphere and spectacle of the Venetian metropolis.
The brio, colour, fun and above all popular participation have always been elements that define the Corfu Carnival. Together with the masked balls and the wanderings of the masked revellers through the streets and the alleyways of the town, Corfu brings to mind Venice, where the revelry and the fun have their own unique and special cadence.
The Corfu Carnival in the countryside
In the countryside of Corfu, in contrast with the town, are preserved many elements of ancient Greek pagan worship. The arrival of the effigy of the Carnival King, the all night dancing of masked revellers with their masks called ‘mouzeta’ around the bonfire, the improvised comic sketches with their mocking character, the sacred marriage with the joint banquet, and finally the announcement of the covenant and the burning of the effigy of the Carnival King (the scapegoat, who absolved the sins), with laughter, joy and good wishes, show the Dionysian roots of the Carnival of the Corfu countryside.
According to the historical writer Karolos Klimis, until recently, in the mountainous areas of Corfu, on the Sunday of Tyrofagos, the carnival custom of the phallus and the goat’s foot, which were Dionysian symbols, took place. Even today in the villages of Episkepsi, Nymphes and Klimatia the “Papadon Dance” is performed, a custom that combines pagan customs with the Orthodox Christian religion.
Corfu Carnival with significant qualitative differences from other Greek Carnivals, aspires to continue a 400 year old tradition.
In recent years, efforts have been made to spotlight the identity of the Corfu Carnival, based on the specificity of Ionian Culture, which successfully merged the Western way of thinking with the folk element and the Greek character of the area.
Accommodation in Corfu
Corfu is a place where tradition and culture flourishes. Corfiots are a people who love, preserve and enhance them. The revival and promotion of the Corfu Carnival is a good reason for visitors to come to Corfu in the heart of winter. Nostalgia Apartments Corfu is an ideal accommodation proposal in spring and summer and if the Corfu Carnival is established as a visitor attraction they will be ideally placed to welcome the winter visitors of our island.