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 2016 Apokries runs from Sunday 21 February 2016 to Sunday 13 March
2016,  while Clean Monday ('Kathara Deftera' or 'Kathari Deftera') falls on
Monday 14 March 2016.

First Week of Apokries - from Sunday 21 February 2016
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: 3 March 2016
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 - 12 & 13 March 2016  
The majority of Carnival Parades are held over this, the last, weekend of
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

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

Clean Monday - 14 March 2016

The day after Tyrofagis Sunday is  'Kathara Deftera' , also called 'Kathari Deftera',  
or Clean Monday, which falls on
14 March 2016.

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 2016.

See Also Easter in Crete & Greece and Bank Holiday Dates 2016
Copyright 2004-2015  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.