'Apokries','Tsiknopemptee', 'Kathara Deftera'. Carnival in Greece is full of religious traditions. But don't forget the party. Forget Venice or Rio, Greek carnival if full of joy and fun. Did you know that the Patras Carnival, 'Patrino karnavali' is one of the biggest in Europe?
Preparing for Lent
Greek Carnival or ‘Apokries’ is a true family celebration with streetparties, parades and masquerades. Carnival ( from Latin: ‘carne’ and ‘vale’ = ‘goodbye to meat’) marks the days before the fasting begins. This is stressed on ‘Tsiknopemptee’ or Meat Thursday in the third week of carnival. ‘Tsikno’ means the smell of grilled meat and ‘Pempti’ means Thursday. This Thursday is a day to take your family out to a tavern and eat grilled meat.
Ancient Greek roots
Carnival is related to the pagan rituals of the ancient worship celebrations to Dionysus, the God of wine, agriculture, fertility, dance and fun. The ancient Greeks held this wine and dance festival in February/March to celebrate spring. There was a parade with a Dionysos figure, fancy dress and masks.
During modern carnival street parties and parades take place everywhere. The best-known is in Patras, including a children carnival with a large parade of school children. Other famous carnivals are in Rethymnon (Crete), Galaxidi, Xanti and Kastoria. The Dance of the Gaitanaki is part of Greek carnival: a group dance with colorful ribbons.
The carnival ends on ‘Kathara Deftera’ or Clean Monday. Fasting begins and the ‘Koulouma’ (traditions related to Lent) start. On Clean Monday, Greeks leave the city for the country side to spent family time, to have a picnic and to fly a kite. The traditional food eaten on ‘Koulouma’ is ‘taramas’, a red kind of caviar, ‘halvas’, a cornstarch sweet and a Clean Monday bread called ‘lagana’.
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