Carnival In Crete, History and Tradition / Video

( Video from Rethymno Carnival Parade )

The Greek Carnival, From History to Modernity

 The Greeks are the inheritors of a rich culture and patriarchal way of life, in which traditions and holidays honor timeless values such as the bond between people and nature and its cycles, religious devotion, and patriotism. These values are deeply rooted in the Christian-Orthodox faith and are celebrated with deep national pride.

 The conservative but equally creative and celebratory Greek nation has, throughout history, amassed a rich calendar of secular and religious holidays whose origins and meanings are little known today. From the ancient festivals under the patronage of Dionysus - the god of wine, theater, feasting and pleasure - which were honored with banquets, dancing, music, sports and artistic performances, to the Venetian-inspired medieval carnival, to the sober and God-fearing Orthodox rituals and festivals - all this is reflected today in the way Greeks know how to celebrate life and its most important events.

 Even for modern society, the end of winter and the welcome of spring is one of the important periods of the year. The traditional festival called "Apokries"( ”The Carnival”) is closely linked to the astronomical calendar - and, essentially, to the rebirth of nature and the beginning of a new agricultural year, and to the religious calendar with the Christian-Orthodox Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Apokries” or ”Karnavali”- Three Weeks of Street Festivities

 Apokries or Karnavali is a traditional preparation period for Lent in the Greek Orthodox faith. It begins in early March and lasts for three weeks. During this time, it is encouraged for families to abstain from heavy foods and parties. The first week of the carnival is called “Prophonis” and is the week in which it is announced that Apokries has begun. The second week is referred to as “Kreatini” or “Meat Week” as it is the last week in which meat is allowed to be eaten. The third week is known as “Tyrini” or “Tyrofagou”, or “Cheese Week” since this is the week in which only dairy products are permitted. The abstinence from meat and dairy continues until the eve of Lent.

 Cities and villages host many private and public events, such as parties, festivities, and masquerades, organized by schools, companies, and cultural institutions. Also, dance, music, and theater performances can take place in parks, on the streets, and in city squares. They are a great way to bring people together and showcase Cretan culture and traditions by engaging locals and tourists alike.

 Even for modern society, the end of winter with the welcoming of spring is an important time of the year. "Apokries" is a traditional festival closely related to the astronomical calendar and essentially with the birth of nature and the beginning of a new agricultural year, as well as with the Christian Orthodox Easter calendar.

 Music, entertainment, and plenty of food are all part of the Apokries festival. In the second week, when abstinence from meat begins, Greeks celebrate Tsiknopemti (Barbecue Thursday - "tsikno" means barbecue haze, "pemti" is Thursday). Families, friends, and neighbors celebrate this day by grilling skewers ("souvlaki") in the courtyards, streets, or on terraces of taverns with music on loudspeakers or live. 

 The Tsiknopempti festival runs until late at night, ending with a glamorous performance on the main square by dance schools and amateur troupes. 

The Carnival Parade, a Spectacular Street Production 

 Apokries culminates with the Grand Carnival Parade, which cheerfully, colorfully, and noisily concludes the three weeks of festivities. The parade usually takes place on the last Sunday of Apokries, in the main city squares of towns and villages in Crete.

 Friends and colleagues form crews and decide what theme they want to represent at the parade. Creating the fleet concept and costumes can take several months. Each group invites other members to join because the most original and numerous team is awarded at the end.

 Dedicated to the spirit of this traditional holiday, the Municipalities of the cities do their best to organize the program of festivities, which include the march of the participants, MCs, entertainers, music, and other fun activities, on the pedestrianized arteries and the civic center. To encourage tourists and visitors, admission is free, and for managing the influx of people and cars, guided access routes and additionally free of charge parking are prepared, in advance.

 Cretan carnivals are usually held in Souda, Paleochora, Kalyves, Kastelli / Kissamos, Malia, and Heraklion, but the most famous is the Rethymnon Carnival, a spectacular "production" of choreography and sound, stories, and characters, with obvious Venetian influence. (

 We, ourselves, Daily Crete, had the joy of participating in this adventure in Rethymno, leaving us fascinated and amused by the spirit of the carnival, losing our footsteps among the dozens of allegorical floats and thousands of costumed people, wandering cheerfully through the streets, dancing, posing and playing pranks. It is our pleasure to share with you our visual reportage about Rethymno Carnival.

"Kathari Deftera"-The Religious Day of Purity and Beginning of the Spring

 The carnival show concludes across Greece with one of Greece’s most important feast days – ”Kathari Deftera” – which symbolizes a fresh start after the carnival extravagance. Literally translated as “Clean Monday” ("katharos" = clean, “deftera”= Monday), this day begins the "Sarakosti" (Lent) during which, for 7 weeks until the Orthodox Easter Sunday, no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, or oil are consumed. The spiritual significance of the day is the purifying of the body and soul, inviting everyone to direct their way of life to holiness, balance, and wisdom and to practice fasting with clean hearts and good thoughts.

 Celebrating the arrival of spring, the Cretans dedicate this day to outdoor family activities: hiking on the mountain or walking on the beach, picnicking with traditional vegetarian delights next to some of the most popular seafood, the widespread custom of flying kite, and free concerts, offered by the local artists and music bands.

 Needless to say, if you like to have some fun, Crete is one of the best wintertime destinations! Just wear your fancy robes, masks, or funniest costumes, wander through the streets, mingle with the locals, get in tune with their cheerful vibes, and surrender to the spirit of the Carnival!

 Enjoy our  PHOTO ALBUM  from the Carnival Of Rethymno!

 Καλές Απόκριες! / Kales Apokries!

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