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Living - Apokries - Carnival
|Carnival in Crete
The Tradition of Apokries / Karnavali / Carnival
(Apokries may also be spelt Apokreas, Apokrias)
Carnival in Greece is a great celebration and a chance to escape the everyday monotony and enter into a world of party,
fantasy, jinks and 'kefi' (high spirits) ... a feast of dance, wine and meat before the sacrifices and fasting of Lent.
In Greece the Carnival started in Ancient times, believed to be as a worship to Dionysos, the God of Wine and Feast. In
the Orthodox tradition Apokries is the preparation period before Lent. Apokries means literally saying goodbye to meat -
Apoxh apo kreas - apo-kreas. In Latin the roots of the word Carnival has the same meaning - 'carne' is meat and 'vale'
Apokries in Greece runs for three weeks, immediately preceding Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church calendar.
In 2019 Apokries runs from Sunday 17 February 2019 to Sunday 10 March 2019..
Clean Monday ('Kathara Deftera' or 'Kathari Deftera') falls on Monday 11 March 2019 (see more below).
First Week of Apokries - from Sunday 17 February 2019
Apokries starts with the opening of the book of the Triodion, the 3 holy sacraments.
Second Week- Meat week
Officially the last week of eating meat until after Lent.
Tsiknopempti - Thursday of meat week: 28 February 2019
Tsikna is the smell of burning meat. It was the custom on Tsikonpempti for everyone (including the poor) to charcoal grill
meat and to melt fat over it so the smell of 'burning' meat permeated whole villages.
It is still the tradition to eat meat on Tsiknopempti, although nowadays it is usual to go to a taverna for the meat feast.
You'll find that tavernas everywhere are packed and many have live music too. Another glendi!
Third Week - Cheese Week
This week was also called 'White Week' as people ate mostly dairy products and eggs. Meat was forbidden from
Monday of cheese week until after Lent. Many people still adhere to this.
According to old custom, women never washed their hair during this week as it was said it would turn white if they did.
Carnival weekend Saturday/ Sunday - 9 & 10 March 2019.
The majority of Carnival Parades are held over this, the last, weekend of Apokries (see below)
The final day of Apokries is also the last day until after Easter that church weddings are allowed to take place. The
Orthodox Church still follows the tradition that no weddings or celebrations can take place during the 50 days of Lent.
The old tradition says don't get married on this day; if you do it will be an unhappy marriage!
(Pronounced 'mask - e - ra - des' in Greek)
During the three weeks of Apokries children, teenagers and adults alike dress up in (often outrageous!) disguises and
masks and visit the houses of friends and neighbours who try to guess the identities of the masqueraders. The town and
village cafés, tavernas and bars are also visited by masqueraders, usually armed with cans of foam, streamers and
Weekends, and the final carnival weekend in particular, are the most popular periods for dressing-up and many masked
balls, dances and children's parties are held at various venues throughout the three week carnival period.
Apokries culminates with the Grand Carnival Parades, a number of which are held throughout Crete and Greece, usually
on the last Apokries weekend.
Carnival parades across Crete & Greece
Carnival Parades are held all over Crete and Greece, with the majority taking place on the last weekend of Apokries -
9th & 10th March in 2019.
In Crete many towns and villages hold carnivals; the largest of which takes place in Rethymnon on the last Sunday of
Apokrias, 10th March 2019..
Other Crete carnivals are usually held in:
Kastelli / Kissamos
Groups of friends get together to form teams, deciding on a theme for their floats and costumes. These can take months
to make and are
generally used only once, with originals produced each year. Prizes are sometimes awarded for the best floats and
costumes and there can be great ( friendly!) rivalry between teams.
The largest and most famous Greek carnival of all is held in the town of Patras in the Peleponnese on the Greek
Clean Monday - 11 March 2019
The day after Carnival weekend and Tyrofagis Sunday is 'Kathara Deftera' (Καθαρά Δευτέρα) also called 'Kathari
Deftera', οr Clean Monday, which ιn 2019 falls on 11th March.
Clean Monday marks the end of Apokries and the first day of Lent (Sarakosti).
Fasting starts today and traditionally no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products or oil are allowed to be eaten for the 49 days
leading up to Greek Easter
Clean Monday is a Bank Holiday in Greece and also seen as the start of springtime; it is generally celebrated by an
excursion to the mountains or the beach to enjoy a Lenten picnic or taverna meal, and fly a kite.
See Related: Easter in Crete & Greece and Greece Bank Holiday Dates 2019
Apokries - Carnival in Crete & Greece Clean Monday