The carnival season, or “Apokries,” has arrived once again in Greece, and cities and towns throughout the country are now preparing for a full slate of colorful festivities during the three-week-long celebrations.
Apokries culminates on the weekend before “Kathara Deftera,” or Clean Monday, the first day of Great Lent, which falls on March the 2nd this year.
The name Apokries (“apo kreas”) means “abstention from meat” because after that, the period of Great Lent, or “Sarakosti,” begins, where no meat whatsoever is consumed for 40 days before the great feast of Easter.
The streets of Athens will soon be filled with colorful confetti, masks, capes and hats. Various percussion instruments will give their rhythms to the festival time, and harlequins and clowns will be seen strolling the streets of the Greek capital.
Between Friday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1, well-known musical artists, among them Glykeria, Eleni Tsaligopoulou and Melina Kana, will give concerts under the Acropolis.
The Greek municipality which is best known for its celebrations is the port city of Patras, which has the oldest and one of the largest carnival celebrations in the country. Started in 1870, the annual Patras events include everything from gala balls and parades to children’s events such as treasure hunts and a children’s carnival.
Other traditional events for carnival take place every year in Xanthi, Rethymno, Kastoria, Tyrnavos and Volos — to name just a few. Let’s take a closer look at some of their local traditions!
The celebration in Tyrnavos is one that travelers should take note of, and if you are ever in central Greece during the carnival season, this is definitely one event you should not miss. All the Carnival events there take place in quaint little towns and villages and it is always a wild party!
Xanthi’s Carnival is set up by over 40 different cultural associations who take part in the celebrations, with their own unique stalls lining the streets of the city. You can sample local wines and the traditional foods of the region as well. In Xanthi they celebrate with the local custom of “To kápsimo tou Tzárou” (The Burning of Tzaros), as well as a parade with floats and costumes.
Another unique Carnival experience awaits you in Rethymno, where almost an entire month-long slate of events takes place every year. The parade invites locals and passing tourists alike to join in, as they all get together to celebrate in a music-filled party with a strong Venetian influence.
The fabulous costumes and floats there will surely make you think you’re in the Serene Republic during the height of the Carnival season.
One thing is certain — no matter where you go in Greece, you are sure to run into some sort of Carnival celebration at this time of the year. Don’t miss the chance to experience this fun and festive time with the local people!