It’s that time of the year again, three weeks before Ash Monday, that the “Triodio” starts in Greece, a.k.a. the carnival! Celebrated in most western countries the carnival dates back to pagan times. The Greek word for the carnival is “Apokries” meaning “(away) from - meat)” and just like in the catholic countries, apokries are considered the best time to party!
In the past, the festivities were mostly contained in groups of masqueraded people who roamed the streets singing satirical songs and pranking passers-by. However, festivities that dated in different historical periods of Greece made a comeback and got “standardised” in each place of origin. Nowadays the country mostly sees two types of carnival festivals: Folk festivities that are scattered in many different villages and towns in Greece and big carnaval parades that draw the attention of Greeks and tourists alike.
Patra is considered the heart of Carnival in Greece. Mostly famous for its huge Grand Parade (one of the biggest in the world), in reality the carnival is a plethora of events, including balls, parades, hidden treasure hunt games and amongst others a children only carnival. It’s officially over with the ritual burning of the carnival king, at the port of Patras, while the masqueraded people may keep the party on all night!
The second biggest in Greece is the folk carnival of Ksanthi. A truly unique experience where people celebrate the revival of the old custom of “Tzaros”. Tzaros or Tzarou, its female equivalent, represents a human effigy, and on the last Sunday of the carnival it is placed on top of a pile of oak wood, in a square or a hill, so that townsmen would not have fleas in the summer.
Athens, the country’s biggest city, couldn’t stay absent of all the carnival festivities! In plaka groups of people still roam the streets dressed up spreading the joy of the carnival. However the most noteworthy are the parades at Moschato and Renti, that welcome hundreds of spectators and yearn for the title of the biggest carnival in Athens, trying to out-do each other every year. Many more towns host carnivals and celebrate Apokries. Rethimno in Crete, Naxos in the Cyclades, Kozani, Amfissa and Naousa are just some of the most popular carnivals one can join. Expect to be wowed by singers, floats, games, celebrities, parades, folk dresses, music, political satire and more, wherever you choose to go!