by Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
PATRAS, Greece, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of revelers and spectators flooded the streets of Patras on Sunday for an impressive parade marking the end of Greece's three-week carnival season.
For over a century the city port in western Greece, 220 kilometers west of Athens, is considered the "king" of carnivals in Greece. Patras hosts the largest and most vibrant carnival events throughout Greece.
This year a group of 25 artists from Beijing also joined in the party, invited by the city authorities.
Over 30 colorful floats satirizing politicians, social trends and even economic woes, combined with the participants' joviality spread once again the message of determination to beat all challenges with humor.
Masqueraders of all ages divided into 130 different themed groups marched across the city center, inviting the crowd to join in the festivity.
"Patras carnival forever!" chanted Angela, a participant.
Most of the revelers were locals who have been taking part in the parade since they were kids following a family tradition.
"It is a tradition (for our family) for the past 30 years," Paulina told Xinhua, dancing with her husband and two kids.
The Chinese artists performed dragon and lion dance, to the cheers of the crowd.
"It was an honor, an amazing performance, unprecedented in our city. We got to know China's culture. We are grateful they came," Nikolaos Chrysovitsanos, president of the Municipal Public Benefit Company "Patras Carnival", told Xinhua.
Choreographer Li Yuntao, head of the Flying Dragons and Dancing Lions Team of Cuigezhuang Township of Chaoyang District of Beijing, said: "We are overwhelmed by the hospitality of the city and the event is well organized... This is our first time to be in Greece and we have been here for five days... Although I only know a little about Greek culture, I like it very much."
Patras Carnival has 187 years of history. According to locals, the tradition started in 1832 when a wealthy merchant trading with Venice held a masquerade ball in his villa.
Gradually the entire city embraced the carnival idea and in 1910 the first carnival parade took place.
However, the Greek carnival is not just a copy of western carnival customs, organizers of Sunday's parade explained.
There is a strong link also to ancient Greek rituals honoring Dionysus, the god of wine and fun in Greek mythology, when people would dress up for the feast.