Apokries / Carnival
Apokries in Greece is a special time filled with fun,
laughter, and of course food. The tradition of Apokries started so that
the Christian people could celebrate and
indulge before the great 40 day Lent of Easter.
It lasts for three weeks before this period of fasting begins.
Apokries is celebrated usually in February. It's rare to see February without Apokries, but of course it depends on when the Orthodox Easter falls. Each part of Greece has its own customs and traditions during Apokries. The most famous is the Big Carnival of Patra (Το καρναβάλι της Πάτρας). People dress in masquerade, play games and jokes, have a huge parade, and throw sweets to the observers. Elsewhere, plays are put on in the streets. People are dressed in costumes with masks, depending on the local traditions, and play jokes on the pedestrians. This takes place only at night. Also, kids and adults knock on the doors of the houses and the homeowners try to guess who they are. Sweets, usually homemade, are offered to the "μασκαράδες (people in masquerade)".
Food plays a major role everywhere. The Thursday of the second week is called "Τσικνοπέμπτη - Tsiknopempti".On this day, people have a roast, usually a pig, and the "τσίκνα - tsikna" which is the smoke that comes from the roast, with its aroma will make the area smell good. Since τhe Great Lent is a long period of fasting and mourning, the three weeks of Apokries are filled with dinner gatherings and good times between family and friends.
A celebration that we must note, is the Psihosavata (Ψυχοσάββατα which means the Saturdays for the souls). They are the days that the Orthodox Church and every Orthodox Greek remember their dead. Psihosavata are the last two Saturdays of Apokries and the first Saturday of the Great Lent.
After the last Sunday of Apokries, is the first day of lent. The day is called "Καθαρή Δευτέρα" which literally means "Clean Monday".