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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
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' goodbye.
Apokries in Greece runs for three weeks, immediately preceding Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church calendar.
In 2017 Apokries runs from Sunday 5 February 2017 to Sunday 26 February 2017.
Clean Monday ('Kathara Deftera' or 'Kathari Deftera') falls on Monday 27 February 2017 (see
First Week of Apokries - from Sunday 5 February 2017
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: 16 February 2017
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
Carnival weekend Saturday/ Sunday - 25 & 26 February 2017
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
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 confetti.
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 Sunday of Apokries.
In Crete many towns and villages hold carnivals; the largest of which takes place in Rethymnon on the last
Sunday of Apokrias
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 - 27 February 2017
The day after Carnival weekend and Tyrofagis Sunday is 'Kathara Deftera' (Καθαρά Δευτέρα) also called 'Kathari
Deftera', οr Clean Monday, which ιn 2017 falls on 27 February 2017
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 2017 & 2018
Apokries - Carnival in Crete & Greece