Sailing around Skyros

at Sporades islands, Greece

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From the beginning of the Triodion (the three-week Greek Carnival period) and each weekend during carnival, the island's customs require the "Yeros" (old man)

and the "Kopela" (girl) to go out in the streets and lend their own special colour to the occasion. The "old man" wears a thick black cloak, white woven breeches and has two or three rows of bells tied round his waist, which together can weigh up to 50 kilos. His face is covered with a goat fleece and he dances in the street, so that the bells he is wearing jangle melodiously.
The "Kopela", the old man's partner, is dressed in the traditional white costume of Skyros, in striking contrast with the Yeros' black clothes.
She too has her face covered. She dances round the old man, opening the way for him or attempting to help him or get him to rest.
The most skilled "old men" leave the streets for a while and climb up to the Castle of the island, where everyone is waiting and they ring the bells of the old St. George Monastery.
Then, while the Yeros is taking a rest, the Kopela sings him a song of Skyros, praising his virtues and qualities. Later on both the Yeros and the Kopela will be accompanied by a third figure, the Frank.
The Frank wears a traditional costume of the island of Skyros, as well as trousers. This disguise had the intention to make fun of all those islanders who abandoned the traditional outfit and preferred western trousers (Frankika).
The origins of this custom are lost in the mists of time and many scholars believe that it has Dionysian roots, a relic of ancient Bacchic celebrations.
Older inhabitants of the island insist that the Yeros and the Kopela come every year to remind the islanders of a natural disaster which destroyed all the flocks of Skyros, whereupon a shepherd girded himself with the bells of his sheep and goats and went to the village to warn the others about the disaster.
Another carnival celebration on Skyros is the "trata". During the trata, which reenacts the life of sailors, the performers, mostly fishermen, satirise in rhyme situations and events pertaining to life in Greek society in general.
These satirical verses and the performers' costumes highly amuse the spectators. Festivities reach a climax on the last Sunday of the carnival.
On "Ash Monday", almost all the people of Skyros, wearing traditional local costumes, gather in the village square, where they sing and dance local dances.

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