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Sochos, this small market town some forty miles northeast of Thessaloniki is renowned for its carnival. The chief character is the karnavali, dressed in a goatskin shirt and leggings, a tall conical hat covered in multi-coloured streamers, known as the kalpak, a sequined mask with a long horse-hair moustache sewn onto it, and five heavy bells hanging from his girdle.
As early as January, celebrants wearing bells begin to appear in the kafenions, where the men sing special songs. However, during the last week of Carnival they don full costume and roam the streets with bottles of ouzo, which they offer to friends, relatives and passers-by, while performing a circular dance and sounding their bells.
There is a mystery about the carnival at Sochos. It is known that the masked figures originally appeared not during the pre-Lenten Carnival period, but on the feast of Saint Theodore, on the weekend after Clean Monday, and during the Lenten fast. Local people charge a Church hostile to pagan survivals for the change of date.
In the recent change of the date of this celebration we can see part of the process by which the Church "tamed" pagan festivities, so as to avoid breach of the Lenten fast, and so as to harmonise, as well as possible with the Christian calendar. We may suppose this to be something which had happened in many other places at an earlier date. It also helps explain why festivities which take place today, and which have pagan origins, may take place in different places at different times.
Source by Mela Kubara