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Apkreis: The Greek Carnival Season
If you are looking for a unique and unforgettable experience in Greece, you should not miss the carnival season, known as Apkreis. It is a time of joy, fun, creativity, and tradition that lasts for three weeks before Lent. You will see colorful costumes, masks, parades, floats, parties, dances, and pranks all over the country. You will also learn about the rich history and culture of Greece, as well as the diversity and beauty of its regions. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about Apkreis, from its meaning and origin to its celebration and importance.
What is Apkreis?
Apkreis is the Greek word for carnival, which comes from the Latin carnem levare, meaning "to put away meat". It refers to the period before Lent, when Orthodox Christians abstain from meat and other animal products for 40 days until Easter. Apkreis is also known as Trikodion, which means "the three weeks", because it starts on the Sunday of Meatfare (the last day to eat meat) and ends on the Sunday of Cheesefare (the last day to eat dairy products). The following day is Clean Monday (or Ash Monday), which marks the beginning of Lent.
The meaning and origin of the word
The word Apkreis has a deeper meaning than just avoiding meat. It also implies a change of attitude, a liberation from the mundane, and a preparation for the spiritual. It is a time to let go of your worries, fears, and inhibitions, and to embrace your inner child, your creativity, and your joy. It is a time to celebrate life, love, and friendship, and to honor your ancestors, your traditions, and your identity.
The origin of Apkreis can be traced back to ancient Greece, where people celebrated various festivals in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, and ecstasy. These festivals involved music, dance, theater, satire, and ritual madness. They were also an opportunity for social criticism, political protest, and role reversal. The most famous of these festivals was the Dionysia, which gave birth to the Greek tragedy and comedy.
The main features and traditions of Apkreis
Apkreis has many features and traditions that vary from region to region, but some of them are common throughout Greece. Some of these are:
Masquerading: People wear costumes and masks that represent different characters, animals, or professions. Some costumes are traditional, such as the bridegroom, the old woman, the gypsy, or the bear. Others are modern, such as superheroes, celebrities, or politicians. The masks are usually made of paper mache or clay, and they can be funny, scary, or grotesque.
Parading: People form groups or teams that parade on the streets with music, dance, and chants. They often carry floats that depict scenes from mythology, history, or current events. Some floats are humorous or satirical, while others are artistic or impressive. The parades usually end at a central square or park where people gather for more festivities.
How is Apkreis celebrated in different regions of Greece?
Greece is a country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage, and this is reflected in the way Apkreis is celebrated in different regions. Each region has its own customs, traditions, and events that make Apkreis unique and special. Here are some examples of how Apkreis is celebrated in some of the most popular regions of Greece:
Apokries in Athens
Apokries in Patra
Apokries in Thessaloniki
Apokries in Crete
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Athens and Piraeus
The capital city of Greece and its main port are the epicenter of Apkreis, hosting the largest and most spectacular events. The highlights of Apkreis in Athens and Piraeus are:
The Grand Parade: The biggest and most impressive parade of Apkreis, featuring thousands of participants, hundreds of floats, and millions of spectators. The parade takes place on the last Sunday of Apkreis, starting from Syntagma Square and ending at Omonia Square.
The Treasure Hunt: A fun and challenging game that involves solving clues, finding hidden objects, and exploring the city. The treasure hunt is organized by the municipality of Athens and is open to everyone who wants to join. The winners receive prizes and awards.
The Burning of the Carnival King: A symbolic ritual that marks the end of Apkreis and the beginning of Lent. The Carnival King is a giant puppet that represents the spirit of Apkreis. He is burned at a bonfire at the port of Piraeus, accompanied by fireworks, music, and dance.
The third-largest city of Greece and the capital of the Peloponnese region is famous for its vibrant and lively Apkreis, which attracts visitors from all over the country and abroad. The highlights of Apkreis in Patras are:
The Children's Parade: A colorful and joyful parade dedicated to children, who dress up in costumes and march on the streets with their parents, teachers, or friends. The parade takes place on the first Saturday of Apkreis, starting from Georgiou Square and ending at Psila Alonia Square.
The Night Parade: A dazzling and spectacular parade that takes place on the last Saturday night of Apkreis, starting from Patras Castle and ending at the port. The parade features illuminated floats, lanterns, torches, and fireworks.
The Chariot Race: A traditional and exciting race that involves teams of chariots pulled by horses or motorcycles. The race takes place on the last Sunday morning of Apkreis, starting from Agiou Nikolaou Street and ending at Riga Feraiou Street.
The largest island of Greece and one of the most popular tourist destinations is known for its unique and ancient traditions that date back to the Minoan civilization. The highlights of Apkreis in Crete are:
The Cretan Wedding: A mock wedding ceremony that involves a bridegroom (usually a man dressed as a woman), a bride (usually a man dressed as a woman), a priest (usually a man dressed as a woman), and a crowd of guests (usually men dressed as women). The wedding takes place on the last Sunday of Apkreis, starting from a village or town and ending at a tavern or square.
The Koudounatoi: A group of people who wear sheepskins, bells, horns, masks, and other accessories that make them look like wild animals or demons. They roam around the streets, making loud noises with their bells, scaring or teasing people, and asking for treats or money.
The Mantinades: A form of folk poetry that consists of rhyming couplets that express witty, humorous, or romantic thoughts or feelings. They are usually sung or recited by people who accompany themselves with musical instruments such as the lyre or the lute.
Other islands and mainland towns
There are many other islands and mainland towns that have their own distinctive ways of celebrating Apkreis. Some examples are:
a man. They represent the fertility and vitality of nature.
Xanthi: A town in Thrace that has a tradition called Koukeri, which means "masked ones". It involves a group of people who wear colorful costumes and masks that resemble animals, birds, or mythical creatures. They dance and jump around the streets, making noise with bells, whistles, or drums. They symbolize the awakening of spring and the expulsion of evil spirits.
Naoussa: A town in Macedonia that has a tradition called Genitsari and Boules, which means "janissaries and dukes". It involves a group of men who wear costumes and masks that resemble Ottoman soldiers and local noblemen. They perform acrobatic moves and mock battles with wooden swords and guns. They commemorate the resistance and heroism of the locals against the Ottoman occupation.
Why is Apkreis important for Greek culture and identity?
Apkreis is not just a fun and festive occasion, but also a meaningful and significant one for Greek culture and identity. Apkreis reflects the values, beliefs, and aspirations of the Greek people, as well as their history, diversity, and creativity. Some of the reasons why Apkreis is important are:
The historical and religious significance of Apkreis
Apkreis connects the present with the past, as it preserves and revives ancient traditions that date back to thousands of years ago. Apkreis also bridges the pagan and the Ch