Events for this year’s Carnivale across Greece are coming to a climax this weekend, when the carnival season ends with plenty of dance, music and fireworks displays.
Apokries is a time to celebrate before the reverent period of lent commences (this year: Monday 19 February). All over Greece, people are getting into the carnival atmosphere. The word carnival comes from the Latin ‘carnem levare’ meaning ‘without meat’. The processions, costuming and feasting all derive from ancient ceremonies honouring the Greek god of wine and divine intoxication, Dionysus.
The very famous Carnivale of Patras has been held for more than 180 years and is the largest Apokries carnival in Greece. It combines circus and mask elements with public street parties. Floats, giant decorated cars, carts and coaches, and colourful papier-mâché figures are watched by crowds on the streets and from the balconies of apartments. The closing ceremony at Patras Harbour features the burning of the Carnival King (Vasilias Karnavalos) and a huge fireworks display. This year the closing Grand Parade will take place on Sunday 18 February. It’s worth watching online if you get a chance.
How to get into the “Apokries” spirit
Costumes and masks
Invite guests to celebrate Apokries in fancy dress ‒ they can wear costumes or masks. It’s fun to guess who is hiding behind the dress-up and the mask. Encourage your guests to play jokes on each other! In Greece they would do this with their neighbours and shop owners, where sweets, usually homemade, are offered to the μασκαράδες (people in masquerade). You can even have face painting/mask making activities for little ones. For some Apokries inspired craft ideas, check out Pinterest: pinterest.co.uk/kpapaethimiou/apokries/?lp=true
Download some of the characteristic music that is performed during the Apokries festivities. Domna Samiou was the greatest exponent of this music and her music can be found at https://www.domnasamiou.gr/?i=portal.en.songs (English lyrics also available). As you listen to the lyrics, you may uncover some naughty words. Lambros Liavas, Professor of Ethnomusicology and Cultural Anthropology at The University of Athens, states that these carnival songs, especially the obscene ones, revealing peculiarity and daring contents, challenge bourgeois ethics. As part of the Apokries tradition, it’s important to let this repertoire survive, and keep this precious material alive for future generations’ inspiration and creation.
Who is Domna Samiou?
Domna Samiou (12 October 1928 – 10 March 2012), was a daughter of refugees from the village of Baindir in Smyrna. She grew up in the overcrowded neighbourhood of Kaisariani, Athens. From her music teacher, the renowned Simon Karas, she began to collect folk music. In the 1970s she produced a TV series on folk music from the countryside. The most famous, the “unholy-sacred” hilarious songs of Carnival 1994 or “Τα Αποκριάτικα” are available on iTunes.
For more information visit: domnasamiou.gr
Here is a selection of “Ta Apokriatika” on YouTube for you to play in the background. youtube.com/watch?v=3vTWf8XglGA
And don’t forget to dance all night!