Every year in Rethymno, for almost a whole month, the city plays host to a succession of fun-filled celebrations, bringing together locals and visitors who participate in this carnival because they love to enjoy every moment of their lives. You will see groups of people sitting together in traditional cafés (kafeneia) drinking “tsikoudiá” (raki), tasting Cretan titbits and thinking up “mantinádes” (folk couplet songs) on the spot.
The whole town becomes one big party; people work together in order to organise all the festivities that take place in Rethymno and the surrounding areas. The most important work is done by volunteers, people of all ages who freely contribute their efforts and come up with ever more innovative ideas for the festivities because of their passion for the city’s carnival. Each year the carnival celebrations has a different theme, the element on which the main theatrical act of the dance groups will be based.
The beginning of the carnival of Rethymno will be signalled by a town crier, who will walk all around Rethymno telling people about the festivities that are going to take place. The carnival starts with a treasure hunt for children, and there will be numerous parties, carnival dances, happenings and workshop for children to make objects by hand, all specially planned to amuse the kids.
However, those of you who are older but young at heart won’t have any complaints; all kinds of celebrations will fill the streets and squares of this picturesque town. The numerous events also include a treasure hunt, the dancing of the carnival groups and the extravagant night-time parade of the carnival floats through the streets of the town. You shouldn’t miss the “Kantáda”, a four-hour serenade with bel canto musical influences, where carnival groups walk through the old town and fill every corner with their nostalgic melodies. The carnival in Rethymno culminates in the great float parade: 15,000 revellers will participate in the parade on 6th March in a spectacular production of pictures and sounds and a strongVenetian influence evident in the costumes, the carnival floats and the spirit of the carnival celebration. The carnival will come to its end with the burning of the effigy of the Carnival King.
The next day is Clean Monday (the first day of Lent) but there is no time to rest! The “Koúlouma” feast has its own special place in the carnival of Rethymno. The villages around Rethymno are the centre of attention at this time. Customs as old as the hills come alive once more. Attend the “Moutzoúroma” (daubing) in the villages of Arméni, Geráni and Rousospíti. You should definitely attend the “Klépsimo tis Nýfis” (the stealing of the Bride), the “Avgomázema” (egg collecting) and “Kantí” in the village of Melidóni. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the village of Méronas, a true folklore paradise, where a variety of customs are re-enacted, such as the “Lerades”, the “Arkoúda” (bear), the “Hódja”(Turkish priest), the ”Tsangáris” (cobbler), the “Proxenió” (match-making) and the “Kamíla” (camel).
The Carnival in Rethymno, an institution with a great history, has withstood the test of time and returns each year full of vigour. It is a superb way to raise your spirits, meet new people and experience an event that is pure magic.