Cretan Carnival

Having had three days of lackluster Minoan excursions (Do I sound spoiled or what?), we turned our interests to carnival. Our car rental agent recommended that we head out to Rethimno for Sunday’s Carnival celebration. Rethimno is a beautiful coastal town about one hour east of Heraklion with narrow streets filled with cafes dating back to the Venetian rule of the island from 1210-1645. Carnival here on Crete lasts the three weeks prior to the beginning of Lent. Lent is the forty-day fast leading up to the celebration of Easter. It is a time where individuals give up earthly pleasures like strong drink and certain foods in order to identify with the sufferings of Jesus prior to his crucifixion. In the US, Carnival culminates with Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and lots of wild partying. Look to New Orleans for examples of this revelry. Here on Crete, Carnival culminates on the Sunday before Lent, followed by Shrove Monday, also called Clean Monday, a day of cleansing and sobering up after the wild parting of Carnival. I should also mention here that Greece is predominantly Orthodox, Greek Orthodox to be exact. I mentioned in an earlier blog about how the Coptic Church broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. Well… the Orthodox Church with its roots in Constantinople/Old Greece broke away not long afterwards for similar reasons. While much of the split was blamed on different theological wordings, the reality was that the Greek Orthodox, like the Copts, did not like the way the Roman Catholic Church was exercising its power. The religious calendar is a bit different than our western/Christian calendar, but this year both calendars agreed on the date for Easter.

All that to say that we understood the concept of Carnival, but had no idea what we were really in for. Thousands of people lined the streets, most of them in some sort of costume. We deduced that this is where all the old Halloween costumes go after October 31st. Costume venders were everywhere with all you might need to dress up like fairies, Scream, cowboys, Superman, and traditional Mardi Gras merrymakers. Every corner had food stands with Pita gyros, sausages, and kebabs. Music was blaring from speakers positioned every 50 meters up and down the streets - good Euro club dance music. And then of course there was the parade. Megan described it as a huge moving party. Community groups chose themes, dressed up, created a float, and danced their way down the street. It was a bit like our Solstice parade back in Santa Barbara but on steroids. There was more music, fun, and wild-and-craziness than I’ve ever witnessed. And while the alcohol flowed quite freely among the paraders and from them to the crowds there was nothing unruly about the event. Even the police along the parade route seemed to enjoy the revelry. By the size of the crowd there we estimated that the entire island was in attendance.

The highlight of the parade, and definitely something that needs to be added to our parades back home, was the painting crew. One community group dressed up in white French painter outfits, complete with berets. As they danced down the street they proceeded to paint each other and the spectators. It was amazing.

Cretan Carnival


jane.akshar said...

That video clip of the carnival was truly fantastic. What a wonderful experience and how wise of the car rental people to suggest it.

I am still upset about the bank service. I know living abroad how frustrating these places can be. I have the direct number of my branch and a personal email address and that makes such a difference.

I have just listened to your call and I can not believe how calm you were. I would have lost it. Actually I would have killed someone. Partically Jason with his wonderful weekend comment.

I have sent emails to both companies one congratulating and one complaining

linnie said...

What a great video of the Carnival! Yes, it does remind me a bit of the Solstice Parade in Santa Barbara--more of a cross between that and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. How Emma Jane could sleep to that is amazing! We miss you all so much!