A major event in the cultural life of the village, the carnival of Agiasos is definitely worth experiencing if ever you are to discover what makes Agiasotes - the residents of Agiasos - so perceptive, strongly politicized and even eccentric a people. Join the thousands of visitors who arrive at Agiasos every Spring and experience the mordacity and satire so skillfully deployed in their unique celebration of carnival.
The carnival of Agiasos is bound to amuse, provoke and inspire you like no other carnival celebration. A Dionysian event that combines witty satire and poetry, it perpetuates a long-standing tradition where Bacchic decadence and Dionysian worship marry with allegory to reflect on the socio-political body of the country of Greece. In this way, the carnival of Agiasos not only perpetuates age-old carnival customs, but also depicts the manner in which contemporary socio-political affairs are perceived by some of Lesvos’ most ingenious people.
Originally, the customs of ‘Apokria’ (another Greek term for ‘carnavali’ or carnival), centered around ‘patinada’, the tradition of young men singing and dancing in the streets whilst courting the local young women. In 1900, the lead singer of the parade began dressing in the guise of an ancient Greek warrior, thus encouraging patriotism in the Ottoman-occupied populace.
In a board decision in 1902, the Anagnostirion cultural club (the Anagnostirion continues to organize the Agiasos carnival with little if any financial aid from the State) commenced the practice of giving awards to the most impressive performers while, at the start of the 20th century, caustic poetry was put to music and began to satirize local events and personae. In the following decades, many such folk poets began to articulate their verses, voicing the people’s desire for justice and societal reform.
In 1944, the leader of the carnival processions (the ‘Carnavalos’) aimed its mockery against Nazi Germany and predicted the imminent liberation of Greece. Soon enough, the old donkey-drawn floats were replaced by mechanized ones and, despite the censorship controls of the dictatorship era, the carnival of Agiasos reached its finest moment under the leadership of Ananias Karamanlis.
With its historical roots in the culture of ancient Greece, the rites of the god Dionysus and the exaltation of regeneration and fertility, the carnival of Agiasos retains several of the characteristics of Bacchic worship - the notorious ‘tripsimata’ (odes to the genitals) and the ‘im’ tzouromata’ (Dionysian circle dances). But visit Agiasos while the carnival celebrations are in full sway and what you are bound to experience is the carnival as it has stood ever since the years following World War II.
A theatrical folklore event, the carnival of Agiasos continues to be characterized by the publicly pronounced poems of Agiasotes: iambic fiteen-syllable verses articulated in the local dialect.
For over a century, the carnival of Agiasos has remained a major example of cultural creativity in which witty open-air speeches unleash the fierce intelligence of the Agiasos people against all that they consider unjust and decaying in the socio-political body of Greece.
For an insight into this globally-unique celebration of carnival, visit Agiasos on the last Sunday of carnival (two weeks preceding Orthodox Easter) and immerse yourself into the playful profanity and folklore wisdom of Agiasos poetry.