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Carnival (αποκριές) (or Triodion) are called the three weeks before Lent. It has taken this name because at this period Christians do not eat meat. The word Apokries, like the word Carnival, literally means to stay away from the meat. For Greeks it started in ancient times as a worship to the God of wine and feast Dionysus (Διόνυσος).
Apokries is divided into three weeks that can be considered as a three step preparation before the Lent. The first week is the starting week which the book of the Orthodox Church, that contains hymns with three odes, opens. This is called the Triodion (Τριώδιο). That’s why when Apokries starts we say that the Triodion is opened.
The second week is the last week that a Christian is allowed to eat meat. In this week is the famous Thursday for us, which we call Tsiknopemptee (Τσικνοπέμπτη). Tsikno- which is the smell of the grilling meat and –pemptee which mean Thursday. It is a meat feast to say goodbye to the meat. Until the Sunday of the same week, eating meat is allowed. Then, the next meat will come to the table after Easter (50 days approximately).
The third and last week is the cheese week or white week. During this week people eat mostly dairy products like milk and cheese. Following the custom, during this week women never wash their hair because it is believed that it will turn white if they do.
In the last day of Apokries (which is the next Sunday), is the big celebration with parades parties and so on. During the following 50 days and until the end of the Easter no celebration and especially no marriage are taking place. According the tradition, the wedding which will take place in this period will end up an unhappy marriage.
During these three weeks people and especially teenagers, are dressed with costumes and masks, visiting houses and friends who have to guess who are the masqueraders.The most popular period for dressing up is the weekends and of course the last day with the Carnival parades all over the country. The biggest and the most famous is the Patra’s Carnival.
There are so many customs related to the Apokries. Some of these are the gaitanaki (γαϊτανάκι) dance,the wedding of Koutroulis (του Κουτρούλη ο γάμος),the wedding of the bumpkin (ο Βλάχικος γάμος),the Carnival of the women (Καρναβάλι των γυναικών) and many more which I can write in another post if you wish.
In this video you can have a taste of the Patra’s Carnival.