Ever wondered whether or not Greeks celebrate Halloween or not? Well, the answer is no, but there is a similar festival which is held just before Lent called Apokries, known as “the carnival time.” Apokries is all about Greeks dressing up and having fun!
The carnival began during ancient times in worship of Dionysos, the ‘God of Wine and Feast.’ In the Greek Orthodox tradition, Apokries is a preparation phase occurring prior to Lent. Apokries means literally ‘saying goodbye to meat’ in Greek.
Apokries takes place over a period of three weeks during which the streets are alive with masquerades. Adults dress up and attend parties, as well as head for the cafés and bars dressed in masks, wigs and anything which looks a bit funny, scary or risqué. The men often dress up wearing high heels, short skirts, huge inflated breasts and shockingly bright lipstick, blusher, and false eyelashes.
Others may dress up as priests or take to wearing masks of well-known political figures, actors or movie characters. They walk around carrying props including plastic batons, streamers, confetti, tins of foam, whistles and clackers which makes the atmosphere even louder and crazier.
Children, yes even the babies join in the fun, as masquerade parties are held in villages and schools for the little ones to dress up in all sorts of costumes, anything you can think of, you name it.
Just for the fun of it, masqueraders use their disguises and masks to make anonymous visits to the homes of friends and neighbors, who have to guess who they are. Cakes and sweets are handed out to the masquerading children on their house calls, or in the case of adults, shots of whiskey or water from the local fire hose, which is usually an attempt to get them to remove their masks and reveal their identity!
So, this is fairly similar to ‘trick or treat’ except during Greek Apokries people get to do both. First, the treat is offered as a sweet, cake or whiskey which is then followed by a trick such as throwing confetti, foam or streamers all over the house.
As Apokries draws to a close, the three week period culminates with vibrant grand carnival parades across the country, the most popular of them all being in Patras. Other parades are also held in Athens and Rethymnon, and Crete.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to experience Apokries, why not plan your next trip to Greece during February, which is when the carnival takes place. Dates for the next Apokries are set for Sunday, 5 February to Sunday, 26 February 2017.