Think February is a dead time in Crete? Think again!
The biggest celebration of the year in Greece is Easter. Lent, the 40 days and nights leading up to Easter sees a time of fasting and abstinence, there are no weddings, parties or celebrations. So just before Lent we have 3 weeks of fun, known as Apokries.
Better known as Carnival, many celebrations and festivities take place, local businesses join in with decorations, live music and fancy dress parties. All over Crete the villages put on street processions but the biggest is the Rethymnon Carnival. Themed decorated floats, a huge street party, everyone in costumes. Organised for over 100 years, 20,000 participants and 100,000 visitors are expected this year.
The first feast of Apokries is named ‘Protofoni’ or 'Announcement’. During this week readings from the Triodeon (book of the Three Holy Sacraments) are made daily in churches and on the Sunday the feast of Protofoni announces the beginning of Carnival.
The second feast of Apokries is named Kreatini and is known as ‘Meat Week’. This is traditionally the last opportunity to eat meat before Lent. The Thursday of this week is named Tsikno Pempti or Burnt Thursday where feasting on grilled meats are the order of the day. Many parties, including fancy dress parties or the wearing of masks are held in bars or clubs commence during this week.
The third feast of Apokries is called Tirini and is known as ‘Cheese Week’. Cheese, eggs and dairy products are enjoyed heartedly during this week as meat is not allowed.
This is the last day of Apokries when the grand parades take place.
Colourful floats parade throughout the main streets to the crowds of enthusiastic and usually fancy dress wearing spectators.
Street Food stalls and balloon sellers mingle with spectators while music is played loudly for a truly carnival atmosphere, parties with much eating and drinking go on throughout the night.
'Kathara Deftera' or Clean Monday, which falls on the 2nd of March in 2009, marks the end of Apokries and the beginning of Lent.
Fasting begins on this day where traditionally no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, olive oil or wine are allowed to be consumed for the 40 days leading up to Easter.
Clean Monday is a Bank Holiday in Greece and heralds the beginning of spring. Many families enjoy this day by taking Lenten picnics to the mountains or the beach. The foods consumed on this day contain ‘no blood’. Instead salads, fresh and pickled vegetables, shellfish, octopus, squid and bread are enjoyed. A delicious sweet of Halva is also consumed. It is traditional to fly kites on this day.
So if Rio is a bit to far, pop over to party in Crete the Greek way!