Tirnavos Carnival. The forbidden festival

The phallus is the main subject of the festival. It symbolizes reproduction and fertility.
Photography / Text: Vaggelis Kousioras

Tirnavos town (well known all over Greece for it's high quality alcohol producing) is 18 km away from Larissa city, the capital of the Thessaly region, central Greece. This town, located northwest of Larissa, holds a traditional annual carnival. It is one of the most famous carnivals in Greece having more than a hundred-year old history. The festivities reach their peak on the last Sunday of carnival with the big Parade of chariots, and the participation of thousands people.

The preparations start many days before the big parade and the program goes somehow like this. There are many people working in different parts. Some are preparing the costumes for the hundreds of people that will take part at the parade. Others are working on the making of the chariots. Iron, foam, newspapers, glue, paint and other materials are used. A lot of imagination but also too many man hours are needed.

There is a special chariot, the king chariot let's say, which is different every year. This chariot is usually a figure of a person out of the political scene of the country. It can also be something else. Something symbolic. The other chariots will mostly have the shape of phallus.

The events climax on the final Sunday of Carnival season. It is the day before Ash Monday (the first day of Orthodox Fast for the Easter, "Sarakosti"). The phallus is the main subject of the festival. It symbolizes reproduction and fertility. It is a custom that originates from Dionysian rituals. You can find phallus made of clay, sugar and ceramic. You may find yourself indulging to phallus-shaped bread and drinking “Tsipouro” out of phallus-shaped cups. You may want to buy some kitschy wooden phallus or some phallus-shaped candles.

The parade begins at 19:00. There are a lot of people, of all ages who will take part, and they really do seem to be having a great time. They will move along the central road of the town and about 90 minutes later it will end. Most of the people leave the place after the carnival ends but those who will stay can keep on partying at the local pubs listening to Greek or Balkan music.

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Tirnavos Carnival. The forbidden festival

Leof. Ir. Politechniou
Tirnavos, Thessaly, Greece