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Photographer's Note

The highlight of the Carnival of Naoussa (in Northern Greece) is the appearance of people disguised as Yianitsari and Boules (Brides).

The custom is related to the rites of Dionysus. It's distant predecessor must have been the grand festivities (called Anthestiria) with which people welcomed spring in antiquity; Dionysus was closely connected with the spring season and, therefore, worshipped by the people in the belief that in this way they would be favored and would reap a good harvest.

Closely connected with the custom of Yianitsari and Boules are significant events of the history of Greece, such as the organization and preparation for the Greek Revolution of 1821, the consecutive War of Independence and the destruction of Naoussa in 1822. These historical events along with other contemporary social events are echoed in the songs that gradually became part of the custom.

The custom of Yianitsari and Boules is held to strict guidelines. The performance of this ritual requires disciplined obedience to certain rules. Only young, unmarried men are allowed to participate. Special care is required when donning the traditional disguises. The strict execution of the performance with traditional music and dance is expected. The troupe (Mpoulouki) must follow a specific itinerary as they travel throughout the city and the only instruments that accompany the troupe are the zournas and the daouli which are referred to as a couple (zygia).

The preparation for the performance begins on the eve of the Carnival period. On Sunday morning the dressing of the Yianitsaros is completed and he is ready to join the troupe. The melancholic sounds of the zournas come from a distance accompanied by the drumming of the daouli. They play a tune to a free rhythmic pattern known as Zalistos or Proskinima (the homage or pilgrimage). The Yianitsaros will cross himself three times when he comes to the threshold of his home and then he will salute the members of the troupe who had come to fetch him. After the troupe has assembled, the procession moves to the Town Hall. The permission to proceed with the procession is nowadays granted by the mayor of the city. It is at that time that the zourna player starts playing the Rhoido, a song to which the Yianitsari dance and flourish the handkerchiefs tied to their hands before they draw their swords.

Source: Takis Baitsis, “Yianitsaroi and Boula of Niaoustas”, 2nd Edition, Thessaloniki 2001

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Additional Photos by Dimitris TS (dimitrisT) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 135 W: 11 N: 82] (928)
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