The Carnival in Kefalonia has a great tradition as being one of the best in Greece! The Carnival season (or “Mascara” in Kefalonia) comes to an end with the carnival parade on the last Sunday before lent begins in the rest of Greece, but in Kefalonia, we sometimes have dances on that day too!
Mascara in Kefalonia derives from Venice (not from the ancient tradition of worshiping the god Dionysos as in many other parts of Greece), and it is a period of cheerfulness and fun, and marks the welcoming of spring and the rebirth of life after the cold winter months.
There used to be two kinds of Mascara, the popular one where, a kind of theatrical performance taking place in the village square where the main constituent was the mask (μπαρμπούτες) that covers the whole face. There were specific types of roles, such as the tsafos (policeman), the dotoros (the doctor) and many more. The other kind of Mascara was aristocratic, with people in Domino or Moreta costumes that would dance around the villages small streets. Todays parades have lost their authenticity and only a few groups make the effort to preserve the tradition.
These days, every year hundreds of people gather in and around the square in Lixouri, Argostoli to watch the parade pass and indulge in some fun! The floats and masquerading groups involved invariably satirise the current political and social situations of the island, Greece and sometimes the rest of the world, using sketches, dance, music and narration.
Following the last Sunday of Carnival – is the first day of lent. The day is called “Καθαρή Δευτέρα” which literally means “Clean Monday”. Lenten food is the focus of the day, traditionally included olives, vegetables, broad beans, flaounes (flat unfermented bread), halvas (a sweet made from tahini), havara (shells) brought fresh just for the day from Preveza and plenty of locally produced Robola wine! A rice pudding is prepared from fresh lambs milk and a variety of sea food is offered on the day.
Thanks to Takis Tokkas, for some of the text, from The Ionian Intercultural Centre – established in 2009 as a non-profit organisation for the preservation, investigation and promotion of numerous different aspects of Ionian islands culture.