So who amongst you does not like to have a bit of fun once in a while? Everyone does, right? Well, I know I am in to have some carefree time when I do not have to worry about what others around me think of me and have the freedom to fulfill my crazy, fun dreams. Carnivals are precisely that, a fun time of the year. Wherever you live, I am sure some festivals (or carnivals) are part of your culture. Carnivals and festivals are depictions of the culture that any country has. We all have heard of some globally famous carnivals, like the enormously famous Brazilian carnival or the German carnival, in which they push the fun and party to its limits. Greece, too, has its carnival, and I guarantee that no matter how many carnivals you have seen in your life, even if you are a fan of the ones you have seen before, you will love this one.
Romans, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires significantly influenced modern Greece. That is the very reason that people enjoy Greece being a multicultural country. Carnival, having started in Pagan times, is another cultural influence. Greek people are very proud of their traditions, culture, religion, music, language, and ethnic belongings. People outside Greece also love to visit during Carnival time, as different cities across Greece become much more attractive around this time.
What Is Carnival In Greece
The roots of this Greek Carnival go back to pagan customs in Greece, which means we are talking about going back at least a thousand years today. Pagans used to worship their god of wine, fun, dance, fertility, and agriculture with celebrations each year when Spring was around the corner.
Carnival in Greece is celebrated with enthusiasm, warmth, and zest. Greeks love to celebrate their religious festivals as well as cultural festivals that take place throughout the year. If you are a tourist, I recommend booking your dates during the carnival season. Apart from exploring mountains, coastlines, islands, and lush green landscapes, its carnivals are famous for their cultural diversity. The best time to visit different carnivals is “Apokries” (Greece Carnival Season). Apokries dates usually vary yearly but generally fall between late February and early March. This festive carnival occurs just before Lent. Carnival in Greece is about fun, eating, dancing, drinking, and enjoying. Apokries means “no more meat” before Lent and Easter. This carnival stands for freedom of expression by wearing masks and costumes to hide one’s identity.
Who Celebrates Carnival In Greece?
Everyone! Everyone celebrates around that time of the year. As I said earlier, this carnival dates back more than a thousand years, so it runs in the Greeks’ blood. Every Greek starts looking forward to the days before it starts. Apokries in Greece is celebrated this time from 5th February to 26th February. Everyone celebrates this three-week festival by enjoying food, dancing, and drinking. The first week is known as “Prophoní,” preannouncement week; the second week is “Kreatiní,” meat week, and the third week is “Tiriní,” the cheese week. Extravagant parades make it so much fun for kids. The most famous place for Apokries celebrations in Greece is Patras, where the oldest and largest festival starts. Patras is famous in Greece and known for the biggest carnival celebrations for Apokries worldwide.
Why Is Carnival Such A Crazy Time For Greece?
Carnival is one of the craziest times in Greece, obviously in a good way. This carnival is about having fun, celebrating crops, enjoying enjoyment, and dancing. This wine and dance festival is celebrated to welcome the spring season. It is customary across Europe to celebrate the arrival of Spring since people are tired of difficult times during winter. Carnivals of Greece, Germany, and France are celebrated around a similar timeframe, i.e., the arrival of Spring.
Galaxidi, one of the cities celebrating carnival, ends the festivities with the craziest battle where locals throw colored flour at each other. According to a rough estimate, one and a half tons of flour is thrown during this event. People dress for this event in plastic clothes, face masks, or faces covered with coal and wear goggles to save their eyes.
A crazy event between The Yeros and The Korela is celebrated in another city of Skyros. Yeros (the older man) wears black cloaks with a belt of heavy bells around his waist, while Korela (the young girl) wears contrast, that is, a traditional white colored dress, and dances around yeros. Strange but exciting tradition, isn’t it?
What Is The Origin Of Carnival In Greece?
The carnival is celebrated in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, and pleasure, and the roman god of agriculture. Among one the famous traditions of this festival are bourboulia, where the masquerade parade is an integral part of the carnival. In this parade, women wear black dresses with faces wholly covered with a mask, choose their dance partners and enjoy the moment. This is all followed by an unwritten rule where every visitor is supposed to kiss at least to give honor to the phallus. The celebrations finish on the last Sunday of carnival with the burning of the “carnival king” on the harbor of Patras.
Besides the origin of the overall carnival, so many events/festivals during the carnival period are unique and have their roots. Trata, Yeros, and Korela colored flour battles and many other festivals have unique origins. For some of these, even Greeks and historians do not know where and how those festivals started.
When Is Carnival In Greece?
Apokries is a moveable event like Easter. Every year its dates shift but fall between late February and early March. The coming year will start on 5th February, when the whole of Athens will smell like barbecue as the main focus of the festival is on meat and will finish on 26th February.
Not every city celebrates this carnival with much enthusiasm except the main cities. Patras, Athens, Xanthi, Rethymno in Crete, Kastoria, Tyrnavos, Volos, and kalamata have thousands of costumed people celebrating carnival. Various events like a treasure hunt, best dancers, and costume awards are distributed to attract and motivate visitors throughout Greece. Greeks dress up for it, and those who can show a move or two love to join the dance events. People start preparing for the event from the very next day when it ends…isn’t it interesting?
What Are The Important Dates For Carnival In Greece?
This day marks the beginning of the Apokries season throughout Greece. Throughout Greece, the celebrations start on this very day, and if you do not want to go to more crowded places, we recommend you to go to Corfu, where you can have carnival celebrations enjoying a good time on an island. People prepare fancy and traditional food to celebrate this seasonal festival where they welcome summer.
Tsiknopempti – Charred Thursday
Multiple names given to this Tsiknopempti include smoke Thursday, barbecue, or grilled Thursday. This is celebrated by going out and enjoying different meat dishes. What’s with having a lot of meat on this day? Well, this is among the final days when they can eat meat before the fasting period/ the lent begins. Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert before Easter, and that period is called lent. Having a good amount of meat and enjoying feisty meals became a custom on Tsiknopempti / charred Thursday, whether one observes fasting during the lent period or not 🙂
Everyone throughout Greece celebrates Carnival weekend. This is their last celebration before the Lent fast. Because this is the last carnival before Lent, they dance, drink and have fun during these three weeks.
The most festive and colorful event takes place on the first Sunday, and this tradition continues on the second and third Sundays. Last Sunday of the carnival, a large parade begins at 13:00 with all streets and towns jam-packed with people and finishes at 18:30 in the evening. This is the ultimate time for families and friends for the meetups, get-togethers, and dinners before lent.
Ash / Clean Monday
The official food of Clean Monday is meat, egg, dairy, and fish. One of the most important customs of this day is flying kites, which represent spirits flying to heaven.
Clean Monday itself is named to leave everything sinful behind and purify and clean one’s body and soul during the fast.
On clean Monday, a large procession is held of bell wearers where everyone dressed in goatskin costumes wore heavy bells around their waist and covered their heads with colorful ribbons and fox tails.
While every city and town follows the same broader customs, dates, and events related to the carnival, it has its unique twist as well to the carnival. Like Galaxadi is transformed into a battlefield on a clean Monday, Hundreds if not thousands of locals and visitors fill the streets of Galaxadi, and they fight this unique battle where everyone is pelting colorful flour on anyone and everyone on the street. By the end, every participant is so covered with colors that no one can identify who this person is. One might think it is a bit risky, but everyone thinks it is a lot of fun.
5 Things To Know To Celebrate Carnival In Greece Like A Local
Book Tickets And Accommodations In Advance
A Greek carnival is when the whole country is partying, and people travel to their favorite event, the carnival. You cannot travel unprepared to the carnival if you do not have a place. Because if you plan to find a half-decent place after reaching your destination, you might sleep in your car. So always book your tickets and accommodations well in advance; otherwise, you may be looking for a place to crash rather than having fun and celebrating your favorite part of the carnival.
You Have To Wear A Costume
During carnival season, you can choose to do two things: stay on the sidelines and watch people having fun, and let loose and have fun yourself. So really, I do not think anyone has a choice; you go in and have the most fun. When you want to be yourself and not worry about anyone judging you, you might want to cover your identity at times.
The good thing is (almost) everyone celebrating the Greek carnival wears masks and costumes. Some of these costumes are interesting, with fox tales, bells around the waists, and so much more. So be prepared to wear one when you are around during the carnival time.
You Will Be Impressed By The Costumes
You will see all sorts of costumes, from head gears to face masks, black cloaks worn with heavy bells by geros (old men) of Skyros; you even see an adequately dressed (costumed) king and queen at the carnival of Patras.
There Is A Lot Of Singing
During the carnival festivities, there are a lot of singing competitions or just a bunch of people singing together. Greek music is so relaxing and mesmerizing; even you would want to sing along when you hear that music. Greeks love to sing to the beat of their music, or no music does not matter. It is carnival time, and even the sound of hundreds of people singing together is music enough to keep all of them going. People singing beautiful songs multiplies the absorptivity of the atmosphere. Come over this coming February if you, too, would like to try out some nice songs.
Expect To See Many Drunk People
The whole festival revolves around drinking, dancing, and having fun. You would see people drinking in their homes, cafes, restaurants, bars, streets, and everywhere. People like to loosen up and set themselves free; what better way to achieve that than having excessive alcohol? So, if you are a visitor and you chose the carnival time to visit Greece, you know what to expect, a lot of drunk people walking across the streets and having uninterrupted fun.