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Sunday, March 6, 2011
Apokries: Greek Carnival Season
Greece's Carnival season known as "Apokries" is a period of eating, drinking, dancing, and masquerading for the young and old alike.
Traditionally, it begins ten weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter and culminates on the weekend before "Clean Monday," the first day of Lent.
This year, the carnival season lasts from February 12 until March 7. Literally "Apokria" means 'saying goodbye to the period of meat-eating', or abstinence from meat (Apo-kreo = away from meat).
The roots of Carnival celebrations and customs can be traced back to ancient Greece and are linked to the worship of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and festivity. The processions, costumes, and feasting all derive from ancient ceremonies honoring him and other Greek gods and goddesses.
Carnival officially begins on a Saturday evening with the "opening of the Triodion," as it is called metaphorically. Triodion -also Lenten Triodion- is a liturgical book of the Orthodox Church that contains hymns with three odes instead of nine and begins to be chanted on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee through Holy Saturday, marking the launch of the three week pre-Lenten Season. The following week is a fast-free week until Meatfare Sunday which is the last day before Easter for eating meat.
The Thursday of this week is known as Tsiknopempti -Charred, Smoky or Barbeque Thursday- because of the smell of the grilled meat in the air. Tsiknopempti is the Greek version of the French Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) during which family and friends gather in tavernas or homes to eat large quantities of charred meat and celebrate, just ten days before the beginning of Lent.
The last Sunday of the Carnival period is known as Cheesefare Sunday orTyrofagos as only dairy products can be consumed on this day. Cheesefare Sunday is the final day of pre-Lent, as the Monday following -known as Clean or Ash Monday- marks the beginning of Great Lent.
During the weekend preceding Clean Monday, carnival celebrations around Greece culminate with vigorous parades, masquerade parties, reviving many traditional customs in different parts of the country, and proving that carnival in Greece is closely related to the cultural heritage of each region. The largest and most well-known Apokries celebrations take place in the city of Patras in the Pelopponese. In fact, the Patras carnival ranks third in the world for carnival celebrations, behind New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. To learn more about the Patras carnival, visit http://www.carnivalpatras.gr.