Skyros: A Dionysian Carnival

Discover one of the most peculiar Carnival traditions, centred on the remarkable goat dance, performed by groups of masked celebrants in the streets of the island's capital

Greek «Mardi Gras» always ends with a bang with most major events taking part on the last weekend. A Magic Cabinet packed its bags for an imaginary jaunt to Skyros, an island which stays true to its century old traditions. The Skyros Carnival lasts a whole month, with three mascots leading the way: the «Geros», «Korela» and «Frangos».

«Our Carnival harps back to ancient fertility celebrations, Dionysian worship and the welcoming of spring», Anna Koutsoupi says, who works in tourism and lives on the island all year round.

«Our Carnival harps back to ancient fertility celebrations, Dionysian worship and the welcoming of spring»

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The Geros is an old man dressed as a shepherd, wearing traditional leather shoes called trochadia, a hooded cape, a fleece mask, holding a shepherd’s cane, with 40 sheeps’ bells tied around him. You hear the Geros coming because of all those bells, so he’s always the one to kick off proceedings. The various «Geri» meet in the Chora alley ways re-creating a symbolic game of male strength.

The Korela is traditionally a man dressed in women’s clothes and a mask, who dances around the Geros, waving a hankerchief. When the Geros is resting, the Korela sings a slow, long winded tune called Korelitikos.  

The Geros is an old man dressed as a shepherd, wearing traditional leather shoes called trochadia, a hooded cape, a fleece mask, holding a shepherd’s cane, with 40 sheeps’ bells tied around him 

The group is completed by the Frangos who is dressed in European attire, a goat mask, with a big bell tied round his waist. This tradition poked fun at locals who chose Western, instead of traditional, clothing. Everyone taking part in the Carnival goes through the market, while the most daring go all the way up to the old castle in order to ring the bells at the church named after the island’s patron saint, Saint George.

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Another Skyros tradition, which takes place on the last Sunday of Carnival, is called Trata and it depicts the life of seafarers, with fishermen reciting satyrical ditties. «The island doesn’t stop partying, even on Clean Monday» according to Mrs Koutsoupi. The locals congregate in the village square, singing and dancing all day.

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Photos courtesy of Skyrianí Apókria - Carnival Facebook Page 

News

06.03.2019

Text

Nancy Fanara

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