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The carnival in Skyros

carnival in skyros

The way Skyrians celebrate the carnival seems to be wild and pretty brutal. Hundreds of bells ring all over the island while mystic figures wander around it, spreading owe or quiver to people unused to this primeval custom. Intense sentiments, as senses are strongly stimulated, are caused to those who take part or watch the ceremonial performance. It is full of symbolism having its roots in ancient Greece when Dionysiac ceremonies were taking place.

The main figure of the carnival is the Old Man personated by a man of solid build who must be capable of carrying the accessories of his costume that consists of a bell belt encircled around his waist. This belt is heavy and thats why other men help the Old Man to put it on. The Old Mans dressing procedure is a ritual and it has to be done cautiously because the costume is heavy and it can get tiring to the Old Man, especially when he is dancing, if it hasnt been placed correctly. The costume consists of a pair of white wooden knee breeches and a wooden black capote such as those worn by shepherds. The Old Man wears the capote contrarily so that the knotty part of it to be on sight and thus making him look like an animal. A piece of cloth is put on his back under the capote in order to create a hump that makes him looks imposing thanks to his big size. He also puts on a colorful neckwear, leather sandals and a pair of high knee white socks tied with black garters. What makes this costume wild, almost scaring and unique, recalling satiric figures, is the mask; it is made of the skin of goats born prematurely and then died. It is hanging in front of the face of the Old Man having two small holes on the points in front of his eyes. It is said that this a way of paying honors to the early dead goats. The last and most noisy object of the costume is the bell belt. It consists of 40 (if the man is brave enough they can be more than 40) that hang from wooden links which in turn hang from a rope made of goat hair. When the old Man jumps or dances, the bells ring loudly. He also holds a sheep hook adorned with wild flowers on its top.

carnival in skyros

What is more, a third figure takes part in the carnival; the Frank who is usually dressed in european costumes including a funny hat and a mask. He also holds either a pumpkin while making immodest movements or a conch that he blows often in order to produce loud sounds.

There are many groups composed of 2-3 Old Men, 1-2 Korelas and one Frank, followed sometimes by young children, who meet all together and parade in the village centre. They dance moving their waists in order to make the bells ring and sometimes they stop dancing and open their hands basing one of them on their hook and then moving their corps in a way that the bells synchronize with the movement reaching a crescendo that cheers everybody up.

When two Old Men come face to face, they make strong and imposing movements in order to impress each other leading in jumping and bumping their bodies in an attempt to show their strength off.

The Old Men are the leaders of each group who dance and move in order to make the bells ring while the Korelas are dancing around them waving their handkerchiefs and the Frank cheats everybody throwing confetti. On the last day of the carnival, after having passed through all the village streets and having visited their friends houses, each group join the others creating an army of satiric figures who direct to Saint George church which is located on the top of a rock overlooking Skyros island, for the Old Mens last delirious dance. They keep on dancing while descending towards the village centre until the next dawn.

Further to this part of the carnival celebrating in Skyros, which reaches its peak on the last Sunday of the carnival, theatrical performances with lyrics and current reality roasting take place. The trawl parade consisting of a fishing boat adorned with a carnival decoration and surrounded by disguised people who have made their faces up with black-ball, recalling the pirates who used to loot the island in the past, appears in the village centre on Clean Monday midday and they make a performance gossiping on public people activities and cheating each other using dirty words.

The carnival in Skyros is one of the most intensively celebrated all over Greece reminding us the ancient satiric ceremonies devoted to the Wine God, Dionysus. What makes it different is the custom of the mans disguising into an animal and his instinctive behavior as he comes to ecstatic dancing.

carnival in skyros carnival in skyros

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