Apokries (Greek: Απόκριες) is an annual festival celebrated in Greece that marks the beginning of the Lenten period leading up to Easter. This festive season, also known as Carnival season, is a time of merriment and joy before the solemnity of Lent begins. In Crete, Apokries is celebrated with great enthusiasm and is a time when locals and visitors come together to enjoy the festivities.
The Apokries celebrations in Crete last for three weeks and are filled with various customs, traditions, and events. The first week is known as the “Profoni” week, where people dress up in costumes and masks and go door-to-door singing and dancing. This tradition is called “xenismos,” and it is believed to have originated from the ancient Greek cults of Dionysus, the god of wine, and fertility.
During the second week, the focus shifts to the towns and villages, where carnival parades are held. The most famous of these parades takes place in the city of Rethymnon, where thousands of people take part in the procession, dressed in colorful costumes and masks, parading along different wagons. The parade is led by a group of musicians playing traditional Cretan instruments and followed by floats, dancers, and acrobats.
Rethymno hosts the biggest parade in Crete, usually starting on the final week of Apokries and starts around 2 PM and continues all through to the evening! Other parade locations include Kalyves, Souda, Palaiochora, Arkalochori, Iearpetra among others.
The final week of Apokries is known as the “Kreatini” week, where people indulge in meat and dairy products before the start of Lent. This week culminates in the “Clean Monday” celebration, also known as “Kathari Deftera,” which marks the beginning of Lent. On this day, people fly kites and enjoy traditional Lenten food, such as lagana (flatbread) and taramosalata (a dip made from fish roe).
Apokries is a time of celebration and joy in Crete, where locals and visitors come together to enjoy the customs and traditions of the region. It is a time when the island is alive with music, dance, and color, and everyone is encouraged to join in the festivities. Whether you are a local or a visitor, Apokries in Crete is an experience not to be missed!