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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsBe Unplugged! The Patras Carnival in Greece Kicks Off

Be Unplugged! The Patras Carnival in Greece Kicks Off

Patras carnival
Hundreds of thousands take part in the month-long Patras carnival. Credit: AMNA

The annual Patras Carnival, the largest in Greece, will open on Saturday with a ceremony at the main square of Aghios Georgios.

This year’s theme is “Be Unplugged!” and the events began on Wednesday, with the town crier riding on a musical float, announcing the famed carnival’s start, and calling the public to gather at the square.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate during the month-long festivities. On Saturday morning, a procession will occur with musical bands, carnival bicycles, the organizers, the carnival queen, and other celebrants.

At 18:00 on Saturday, a party will start at the Aghios Georgios Square. A little later the theater troupe Helix and a Baroque procession will leave from the City Hall to parade through the city with participants including actors, musicians, acrobats, fire jugglers, and Harlequins. This is the traditional Saturday night parade, not the spectacular Grand Parade at the close of the carnival.

At 21:00, the mayor will declare the official opening of the Patras Carnival, to be followed by the traditional ‘chocolate war’, during which the city’s confectioners throw chocolates from the City Hall’s balcony. A concert will also take place and the start of the annual Treasure Hunt will also be declared.

The Patras Carnival which has more than 190 years of history will conclude on March 17.

It will climax in the last weekend of Carnival with the Saturday evening parade of carnival groups, the extravagant Sunday parade of floats and groups, and finally the ritual burning of the carnival king at the St. Nikolaos Street pier in the harbor of Patras.

Patras Carnival
The ritual burning of the carnival king. Credit: Undead_warrior, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

History of the Patras Carnival

The starting event of the Patras Carnival in its modern-day form was a ball given in the residence of the merchant Mortis in 1829. French troops of general Maison stationed in the city after its liberation from the Turks were a major influence on the carnival bringing their own culture and traditions to the festivities.

During the 19th century new arrivals from the newly joined Eptanisa, the islands in the Ionian Sea that became part of Greece in 1864, were to also dramatically influence the nature of the festivities with tremendous vitality, creativity and a sense of fun that were part of their vibrant regional culture and music.

Later on, and as a consequence of the prosperity of the city at the end of the 19th century, the carnival festivities take on a more regular nature.

The geographical location of the town and the ever-increasing dominance of the port ensured constant communication with Italy and the rest of Western Europe. Their grand carnivals and the Venetian carnival, in particular, were especially influential in shaping the festivities, giving the carnival to this day its Western characteristics.

The first carnival floats appeared in the 1870s. At that time the floats were exclusively the creations of individuals. Only later did the Municipality of Patras undertake to construct a large number of them.

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