Celebrating Apokries: Costumes, music and dance

Photo: MPBC Patras Carnival

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 paper-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.

Patra Carnival

You can find it posted on www.carnivalpatras.gr. It began on Tuesday, January 17th and includes daily events, which take place in various parts of the capital of Achaia. Of course, the grand and famous parade culminates on Sunday, February 26th (at 14:00).

At 21:00, the carnival burning is scheduled to follow, followed by the closing ceremony, with a concert by the 1550 band on the pier of Agios Nikolaos.


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 the 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

And don’t forget to dance all night!

Melina Mallos

Melina is a children’s multicultural educator, consultant and author. Having moved from her birthplace in Greece to Australia at the age of 6, Melina is passionate about helping other children understand and appreciate their own cultural heritage and that of others. A trained early childhood educator, Melina is committed to sharing her knowledge on various cultural sensitivities.

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