The carnival came again this year. It came and left, like the Winter who slowly slowly will be succeeded by Spring. The dead, frozen nature will reborn and this symbolism is present in the carnival’s custom of the “tzamales”. The “tzamales” symbolizes the victory of the Good over the Evil, the victory of Life over Death, the victory of the Spring over the Winter! The lighting up of the great fires in Ioannina, Greece, is a custom that is honored respectfully every year and every neighborhood has its own fire thus celebrating the transition from the Winter to Spring.
The firing of the “tzamales” is the climax of the events that take place every year in Ioannina, on the second Sunday of the Carnival. The custom is competitive, as every neighborhood is trying to fire a “tzamala” which is bigger, attracts the biggest crowd and the fest lasts the most!! The municipality of Ioannina promotes the revival of this old custom, whose roots are lost in the centuries, by offering the wooden logs for the fires and the wine to the the hosts! The days before Sunday, a lot of preparations take place! The wooden logs are placed in circular formation, the sound equipment is being tested and used and in some neighborhoods many small-time merchants put their benches!
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When the sun sets and the darkness covers the city, the masquerades make their appearance!! The fires are lighting up and the fest begins! The city comes to life and its pulse is strong!! In every road people, whether the wear Halloween costumes or not, are moved by the carnival’s rythm, moving from one “tzamala” to the other!! The fires that light up are many, each one for the homonym neighborhood! The Castle, Platanos, Karavatia, Lakkomata, Loutsa, Kaloutsiani are only few of the districts that fire their own “tzamala! All around the city there is a sense of great enthusiasm and a continuous flow of people!! Even before approaching a “tzamala” the music and the songs will inform everyone for the ongoing festivities! Its no exaggeration for someone to say that this Sunday, everyone is outside!! Regardless the rain or the low temperatures the masquerades will honor the carnival’s custom for witch Ioannina are known!!
Indeed the city of Ioannina is among the most famous destinations throughout the year! Despite the heavy rain the fires withstand and they keep burning!! Sparkles are being thrown everywhere, while the masquerades are dancing traditional circular dances from Epirus, around them. The sound of the songs and music is very loud! The imagination of the masquerades is vivid and strong and the variety of the Halloween costumes is enormous! Whether the costumes are paid or handmade they don’t lack in quality and imagination! Men are dresses like women and via versa, while others are dressed as various animals and also as brides, police officers, one was even dressed as Santa Claus!
We said it before the imagination is vivid! One was dressed a photo camera and an other one like a shower unit!!! All of them around the fires, becoming one, dancing, singing, drinking, eating souvlakia, while the well-intentioned teasing was not absent!. The same time small explosives and hand fireworks blow, creating havoc to the bystanders!
As time passes the crowd departs! The fires are starting to lower, although they are going to last till morning! In some neighborhoods, like the Castle, people celebrate until late in the morning, while elsewhere the burned out logs are a reminder of the last night’s fest! The city is sleeping and in everyone’s minds are the thoughts of the beautiful memories and the anticipation for the next year’s “tzamales”!