Despite the media attention on recent activities in Athens, little or no mention has been made of Carnival Week celebrated over the past seven days throughout Greece.
Apokreas is the three week long celebration that runs up to the beginning of Lent. In some
areas it is thought of as the Greek Halloween, but literally it means ‘without (or goodbye to) meat’. It is thought to have begun with the celebration
of Dionysos, the Greek God of wine and feasting, but has evolved over the centuries as a ritual of festivities and ‘cleaning’ that leads up to the beginning of the 40 days of Lent and, subsequently, the Greek Orthodox Easter.
On many islands and the mainland of Greece, the last Sunday of the Apokreas sees the near climax of this festival when many towns around the country host elaborate carnivals. One of the most famous is in Patras in the Peloponese on the West coast of Greece, which continues throughout the three weeks and is one of the biggest carnivals in Europe. It has a separate ‘Children’s Carnival’ parade with, on average, up to 5,000 children participating in an array of elaborate masks.
In small villages and towns, however, everyone joins in. The pictures illustrate Kefalonia and Crete but all the featured islands in the GIC The Villa Collection programme participate. It’s a fun time for the children of Greece and perhaps the first big celebration since Christmas. Parties are held, costumes are worn and tricks are played. Many islands
in individual ways, but they all participate in ‘Clean Monday’ when it is the tradition for the family to come together and fly kites. Homemade or shop bought, it doesn’t really matter. I personally remember many (excuse the pun) sticky moments with a tube of glue and some sticks. What matters is that the whole community enjoys what is also viewed as the first day of Spring flying their kites together! Afterwards, there is a feast – usually based on shellfish – in preparation for the beginning of Lent the next day.
For me, this celebration embodies what the Greeks are all about; tradition, celebration, community – and food!
GIC The Villa Collection