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Carnival in Greece – a lively tradition

The aim of Carnival is to encourage all citizens, and visitors, to be a part of a lively, fun-filled celebration, which takes place in many venues, squares, streets and schools of villages, towns or city neighborhoods. In Greece, Carnival is a big winter celebration, during which Greeks really enjoy themselves, organize many parties and eat a lot of meat!

When does carnival take place in Greece?
The Carnival season in Greece, known as «Apokries,» is a period which traditionally begins ten weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter, and ends with “Clean Monday”, the first day of Lent.
Usually, the carnival period takes place in February and/or early March, and lasts for three weeks prior to Lent. So in total a celebration of twenty-two days, including 3 weekends.
During those three carnival weeks there are many private parties and masquerades, as well as parades and public events organized by municipalities and schools all over Greece.

The word “Apokria” or “Carnavali”?
In Greece people use two words for “carnival”.
The Greek word Αποκριά literally means ‘without meat’ .
The word “karnavali”, obviously a word without Greek roots, and coming from the Latin ‘carnem levare’, also means ‘without meat’.

Where in Greece is best to celebrate Carnival?
Since every region in Greece has its own customs, music and traditions, it is impossible to advise you about which region in Greece is the best to celebrate Carnival.

Just as an example, Northern Greece is a great destination to experience Greek Carnival.

Here below you can find various links with videos taken during the carnival period, of Greek dancing and traditional Greek music in the towns of Edessa and Naoussa, in the province of western Macedonia.
The music of this area is known for the “halkina”, which literary means “the copper instruments”.

Click here to see a video of carnival in the streets of Edessa, Macedonia: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Pq7UhO3gXJw

Click here to see and listen to two videos of Greek dancing and music during Carnival in Naoussa, Macedonia
1)  https://youtu.be/LzhocWWmoqM
2) https://youtu.be/9OulVOgnJHs

Click here to see some Greek dancing in the streets of Naoussa, on the typical music of Northern Greece, with the “halkina”.

 

If you are visiting Athens, we recommend looking for events in the area of Plaka, where you can also experience the Greek carnival, in the small side streets. Various musical bands will play traditional Greek songs, and later in the evening there might be Latin rhythms as well. Moschato, a suburb in the southwestern part of Athens, is also known for its many Carnival celebrations and parades.

What about celebrating Tsiknopempti (‘Burnt Thursday”) in Greece?
On the Thursday of the second week of Carnivale, Greeks celebrate the so called “Tsiknopempti”. On this particular Thursday everyone grills and eats meat. The smell of grilled meat, which fills every neighborhood, is called “tsikna”! Most Greeks gather with friends at home or go to restaurants, in order to “tsiknisoun”! This means, they will “eat meat, smell the “tsikna”, drink and dance”!
On Tsiknopempti, you can also see many masquerades.

The Patrinó karnaváli or Carnival in the city of Patras
The last Sunday of carnival the biggest Greek parade takes place in the city of Patras. The “Patrino karnavali” is the largest event of its kind in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe. Giant decorated cars and coaches, colorful dresses and figures will fill the city streets, while dancing on music all day. If you want to experience something as the “Brazilian carnival”, but in Greece, then Patras is the place to be!
There is also a night parade, called “nychteriní podaráti », which takes place on Saturday night, before Sunday’s extravagant parade. Thousands of carnival participants from all over the country come to Patras to dance, while holding torches, in the streets of the city.

Clean Monday or “Kathara Devtera”
When the carnival festive season is over, the period of fasting begins, until Easter Sunday. But on the first day of fasting, do not forget to participate in the “Clean Monday” celebration – a day of joy and excitement in Greece and a day to fly your kite! You can read more about this wonderful day in our blog article.

Needless to say, if you love Carnival, Greece is a perfect destination.
And do not forget, while you enjoy carnival in Greece, you might also consider to go for skiing in the many ski centres in mainland Greece or simply enjoy “winter in Greece”!

Καλές Απόκριες! (kales apokries!) = enjoy the carnival!

Learn some useful Greek vocabulary.

Το κρέας (kreas) = the meat
Η παρέλαση (parelasi) = the parade
Χορεύω (horevo) = to dance
Νηστεύω (nistevo) = to fast
Το καρναβάλι / οι απόκριες (apokries) = the carnival
Καλές Απόκριες! (kales apokries!) = enjoy the carnival!
Καλή Τσικνοπέμπτη! (kali tsiknopempti) = Have a nice Tsiknopempti!
Τσίκνα (tsikna) = smell of grilled meat
Ο μασκαράς (o mascaras) = the masquerade
Μασκαρεύομαι (maskarevomai) = to dress up for carnival
Τι θα ντυθείς τις Απόκριες; (tit ha ntutheis tis apokries?) = how will you dress up for carnival?

PS. Do not forget to also read this article in Greek and listen to the Greek audio, to improve your listening skills.