No, don’t worry, we haven’t lost our national character or costumes, it’s Carnival or Apokries in Greece, a feast of fun celebrated all over the country with masquerade and parties.
This festival dates back to Dionyssus, the ancient Greek god of wine and fun and it was meant to worship him as well as to help the earth put forth shoots-hence the various leaping dances and the various kinds of disguise in order to please harmful spirits. In ancient Greece this festival took place in early spring, today it’s celebrated 40 days before Easter, so we can see that this ceremony has been incorporated into the Christian religion.
The name APOKRIES means “abstention from meat” , because after that starts the period of Lent that goes on till Easter.
The characteristic of Carnival is disguising and wearing masks. Can you see what the masks remind you of? YES ! The clay masks worn by actors in ancient Greek theatre. The costumes and disguises offered-and still do- anonymity and freedom of expression.
Apokries is celebrated all over Greece, with feasts that can’t always be described as ‘decent”- in memory of Dionyssus and his followers, who worshiped the phallus and fertility. The songs sung again cannot be described as “decent”, and if you go I hope your Greek is not enough to help you understand the lyrics !!!
This year the beginning of Carnival or Triodion is on January 28th – by Tiodion we mean, the beginning of the 3-week Carnival Season which ends on Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera), the beginning of Lent before Easter. In between is TSIKNOPEMPTI, a very interesting feast, a Thursday when everyone eats meat, either at home or at tavernas (08/02 this year). This day is supposed to be the last meat-eating until Easter (beginning 02/04, this year).
The end of Carnival is marked by KATHARI DEFTERA, “Clean Monday”, 19/02 this year, and a long weekend .This Monday is “clean” because we get really serious about not eating meat and going healthy and we eat seafood, pickles, laganes ( a kind of flat round bread) and tarama (a dip made of fish eggs), all that accompanied by wine-that’s when we forget about being serious!
We also fly kites! Preferably in places without electricity wires above, hoping to get the right wind and trying to hush kids up when they go “:But I thought the kite was for ME, daddy, not for you and your friends !!!”
With that we leave you, hoping you will enjoy Carnival in Greece and come back with your experiences from this cheerful and …..indecent holiday!!!!
photos are from Karnavali of Patras, the Carnival parade ! (from their official cite)