Photo: Carnival in Greece. Photo source: flymetothemoontravel.com
“Apokria” or “Apokries’ in Greece refers to the Carnival season, a period which traditionally begins ten weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter and lasts for three weeks prior to Great Lent (Μεγάλη Τεσσαρακοστή). The carnival celebrations culminate on the weekend before “Clean Monday” (Ash Monday, Καθαρή Δευτέρα), which marks the beginning of Lent and is on 19 February this year.
The word «Αποκριά» or «Απόκρεω» (Apokria) is similar in meaning with the word “carnival” from the Latin “carneval/carnevale” and all point to the abstinence from meat as preparation for the fasting period during Lent.
Although today the Greek Apokria is connected to the Orthodox religion, the tradition dates back to the pagan world of ancient Greece. The ancient Dionysian festivals were a celebration of the rebirth of nature held at the end of winter as a way to welcome spring.
The characteristic of ‘Apokries’ in contemporary Greece is masquerading with the use of costumes and masks that can offer anonymity and thus possibly more freedom of expression. Different parts of Greece have their own customs and traditions during Apokries, which include float parades, playing jokes or dancing around big fires on the streets. “Το καρναβάλι της Πάτρας" (the Big Carnival of Patras) is among the most famous events during Apokries in Greece, while other prominent carnivals include those at the cities of Xanthi and Rethymno.