Its Carnival time in Crete! We didn’t even know of these celebrations before we moved here, and it was a great surprise to enjoy Cretan carnivals! Its one of the traditions anchored in antiquity, but as so often shaped later by the Orthodox Christian faith.
Its believed to be as a worship to Dionysos, the God of Wine and Feast. What a great god, and one we should especially celebrate at Panokosmos! Celebrate Dionysus the god of wine, fun and fertility at the end of winter to celebrate the Spring with a new cycle of life in nature.
Carnival, Lent and Easter
In the Orthodox tradition lent lasted for 40 days and was a time of fasting and self discipline leading up to Easter. Apokreas is the preparation for this meaning literally saying “goodbye to meat. It lasts for 3 weeks, but really gets going at the end, with Tsiknopempti – “Meat Thursday”. This is really something, go to any of the villages or towns around the Apokoronas and you will be enticed by the smell of barbecue.
At every corner, shop or outside apartment blocks neighbours will set up charcoal grillswith sizzling chops, steaks and loukanika. Their spontaneous hospitality is overwhelming, you’ll be invited to eat, and plied with local wine and tsikoudia.
The Carnival parades
Apokreas ends with the Grand Carnival parades, where thousands of locals gather to celebrate. Most are masquerades, dressing up in a huge range of disguises.
The shops have been full of everything from masks, blow up hammers and axes, to full costumes.
In Rethymnon this year we saw a cyclist with an axe thru his head!
Some of the Participants!
There are pirates, and soldiers, Mexicans and knights in armour, wild animals…
Old and young participate and the streets are packed with locals enjoying the spectacle.
The parade of floats have everything, so much energy and creativity, not to mention support of local businesses and organisations. Before the parade, many floats are set out in the streets, Rethymnon is the place to see.
This year snow boarders leapt, castles kept watch, electronic cats smirked.
A monk – with a nod to Belgium perhaps – plied ale.
A fearsome judge laid down the law.
Strawberries jay walked!
Learn how to enjoy yourselves – from the Cretans!
Its one of the great aptitudes of the Greeks, and particularly the Cretans, to know how to enjoy themselves.
In the ten years that we have lived here, thru the financial crisis and in the hard times afterwards, the Cretans still got out and danced, and sang.
The panayias – the summer festivals – were still crowded and they took every opportunity to enjoy life.
In the Apokoronas at Panokosmos we are well placed with great carnivals in Souda, Kalyves and Kissamos, as well as the king of Cretan karnivali at Rethymnon. We ferry our guests to the festivities in Kalyves, and collect them later on so that they can enjoy the eating and drinking!
Carnivals and Coronavirus
This year the authorities have cancelled carnival parades due to the coronavirus epidemic. Its a sensible precaution but such a shame that so much energy and effort cannot be fully enjoyed.
Things will be back to normal next year and so why not plan to enjoy Cretan carnivals in for an early holiday next year?In 2021 the final carnival weekend should be March 13-14. In 2021 Apokreas runs from Sunday 21st February to Sunday 14th March. Get in touch with us to set up your accommodation.
Whether or not you decide to come to the carnival next year, if you are thinking of a holiday in Crete do take a look at our blogs which show things to do in Crete, whether it be walking a gorge, hiking in the foothills of the White Mountains, or taking a drive to see the sites. Chania is a great town to visit, particularly to go to the street markets, and of course you’ll want to get the benefits of the Cretan diet – be it the yoghurt and cheese, or the olive oil.