Carnival in Greece  .... celebration ... a chance to escape 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.

The Tradition of Apokries / Karnavali
(Apokries may also be spelt Apokreas, Apokrias)

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 runs for three weeks immediately preceding Lent.

In 2017 Apokries runs from Sunday 5 February 2017 to Sunday 26 February
2017,  while Clean Monday ('Kathara Deftera' or 'Kathari Deftera') falls on
Monday 27 February  2017.

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.
Women never washed their hair during this week as it was said it would turn white if they did.

Carnival weekend Saturday/ Sunday - 25 & 26 February 2017
The majority of Carnival Parades are held over this, the last, weekend of Apokries.
he 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!

Carnival parades in Crete :  see box to the right  - - -> >

Clean Monday - 27 February 2017

The day after Tyrofagis Sunday is  'Kathara Deftera' , also called 'Kathari Deftera',  or Clean
Monday, which 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

Clean Monday is a Bank Holiday in Greece and also seen as the start of springtime; it is
celebrated by an excursion to the mountains or the beach to enjoy a Lenten picnic or taverna
meal, and fly a kite.

(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  - Saturday & Sunday, 12 & 13 March

See Also Easter in Crete & Greece and Bank Holiday Dates 2016 & 2017
Copyright 2004-2016  Carol Palioudaki. Apokries, Apokrias, Apokreas Carnival in Greece.  Living in Crete
Living in Crete
Carnival - Apokries
Index  > Greek Life > Carnival - Apokries
Carnival Greece
Index  > Greek Life > Carnival - Apokries
Carnival Apokries
Carnival Parades
Carnival Parades are held all over
Crete and Greece, with the majority
taking place on the last Sunday of

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
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

The largest and most famous Greek
carnival of all is held in the town of
Patras in the Peleponnese on the
Greek mainland.