Apokries for the Greek Orthodox Church is the three week period before the Ash Monday when the the 40-day long Lenten Fast begins.
However the festivities have their origins in ancient Greece and the celebrations in honour of Dionysus (Bachus), the god of wine and joy, that used to take place to celebrate the end of Winter.
Children almost universally follow the tradition of dressing up but Apokries is a good excuse for fun for the grown ups too. Home parties are organised every weekend, reaching their peak in the third weekend of the period and all bars and clubs are decorated to welcome the dressed up party goers. Plaka is the epicentre of action during this last weekend with thousands of people gathering there and following a self styled parade of the costumed masses.
The celebrations differ around Greece depending on the particular local traditions. Patras in the Peloponese, claims to be the carnival capital. A huge parade of thousands of dancing people and kitsch carnival floats ends up with the burning up of the ‘king of the carnival’
We don’t recommend traveling to Patras during this last weekend, unless you have made reservations well in advance or you have friends to offer you some space on their floor and you are willing to share their flat with another fifteen people!
Ash Monday (Feb 15) is a national holiday and and traditionally it is a day when people head outdoors to fly kites, and enjoy picnics or family meals featuring ‘fast-friendly’ food such as octopus, shellfish and taramosalata
If you are invited to a masque party, or you just want to join the fun in the streets and bars, you can hire a costume for the night or the weekend from the following specialised shops:
Vestiario E2, Socratous 16, M Omonia, tel. 210 5227906, www.vestiario.gr Prices: €30-100 per day, open 09:00 - 20:00
Ta Rouha toy Vassilia D4, Miaouli 25, Psirri M Monastiraki, tel. 210 3313393. Prices: €40-150 per day, open 11:00 - 21:00
Guardaroba A3 Kastorias 33, M Kerameikos, tel. 210 3475857 Prices: €40-100 per day, open 09:00 - 19:00