fbpx

The Carnival Season in Greece

Did you know that the Greek celebrations of Carnival are equivalently famous, lively, and entertaining compared to the well-known celebrations in Venice and Brazil?

 

The Traditional Greek Carnival Story

The Greek Carnival is celebrated three weeks before Clean Monday, also known as Ash Monday, when the long fast of Lent begins. In Greek, the Carnival is called Apokries, meaning to abstain from meat.

 

While after the Carnival period, Christian believers do not eat meat, the celebrations of the Carnival include great amounts of grilled meat. Interestingly, most masquerade parties take place on Tsiknopempti, the last Thursday before Lent, which in the Greek language means the Thursday of “smoke and smell from roasting meat”!

 

Despite being linked to the religious holiday of Easter, the Apokries include several pagan customs. In fact, the Greek carnival traditions resemble the feasts thrown for Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine and theatre.

 

Important Greek Carnival Traditions

As in other cultures, in the Apokries, the most popular tradition is dressing up and going to parties and parades. The Carnival in Greece, in a nutshell, is masquerades, dancing, and satire. Certainly, there is a great geographical variation of customs, dresses, and special events across Greece and the Greek islands. In many areas, such as in Kastoria and Xanthi, festivities include fires which relate to the burning of evil.

 

In Naousa, the customary dress is the Genitsari, for unmarried young men, and the Boules, who represent female brides. 

The Genitsari and Boules of the Carnival of Naousa

All in all, the Greek Carnival is and has always been a chance for everyone to have fun, drink wine and enjoy public gatherings.

 

One of the most well-known nationwide customs is the dance of the gaitanaki, which means donkey. As a tradition, the gaitanaki has been kept unchanged. Thirteen people gather around a tall central pole from the top which hangs 12 long colourful ribbons. The participants dance in circles, weaving the ribbons into beautiful colour combinations and coming steadily close to the pole. The dance is over when the decoration of the pole is completed, evoking the festive spirit.

 

Where to Celebrate the Greek Carnival

Nowadays, there are certain cities in Greece whose celebrations attract both domestic and international tourism. 

 

Patras Carnival

Carnival in Greece is most celebrated in Patras. The Patrino Carnival has a history of over 150 years, and its parades are truly astounding. The floats for the various parades are prepared publicly in workshops and events organized by the Municipality of Patra. 

 

Explore the 2023 festivities of Patras here!

 

Carnival in Rethymno, Crete

The city of Rethymno in Crete is acclaimed for its treasure hunt. Past visitors have described the transformation of the Cretan city into a medieval fair. Another custom of the Cretan Carnival is the serenade: mandolin, lyre, and lute players spread around the streets of the centre and flood the city with traditional festive sounds.

 

A Carnival parade in Greece

 

If you wish to learn hands-on about Greek culture, the Carnival season in Greece is worth exploring! Make sure you pack some sunscreen and an extra pair of carnival sunglasses because you are in for a day and night-long outdoor celebration!

 

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Table of Contents

Looking for something in particular?
Left: Corfu's 2 peaks, depicted in 1600 | Right: Modern-day Corfu
BlogHistory & Culture

How Did the Greek Islands Get Their Names?

Where Do Greek towns get their names? Why does it feel like every town I pass in Greece starts with “Agios”? Why is Mykonos called ...
Periptero
BlogHistory & Culture

Why You Need to Visit a Periptero in Greece

The humble periptero (or plural, “periptera”) is a must-visit during your time in Greece. Usually, visitors to Greece think about major tourism sites like the ...
© Iris Villas
BlogPurchase Tips

Moving From the Netherlands to Greece… And Managing Your Own Holiday Rental

Are you Dutch and thinking about buying a home on the Ionian Coast? You probably have many questions and unknowns: What are the biggest cultural ...
BlogIn The News

Where Did Elxis Travel in June?

Where did Elxis travel in June? Elxis’s team traveled thousands of kilometers in total. With offices in Thessaloniki, Crete, and The Netherlands, and a network ...
The Famous Rebetiko Quartet of Piraeus in 1934
BlogHistory & Culture

What is Greek Rebetiko Music?

Does Greece have a “national” music? What’s that music I hear in Greek tavernas? What kind of music is played on the bouzouki? The answer ...
Crete and Parga
BlogIn The News

3 Most Popular Locations to Buy a Home in Greece in 2024 (Original Research)

The most popular areas to buy a home in Greece are Crete, the western coast (Syvota, Parga, Igoumenitsa, Paleros, etc), and the Ionian islands (Corfu, ...

Compare Listings

Receive the latest news

Stay informed on the latest market insights, updates, tips and more

We’ll send you our best articles, expert insights and newest listings.​