'Apokries' in Greek means 'Carnival' and the literal translation of the Greek word is 'Apoxh apo kreas', which means 'Goodbye to meat'. This is the same for the Latin word 'Carnival' which means 'Meat (carne) goodbye (vale)!' It was essentially a pagan celebration at the beginning of spring, with emphasis on fertility. In the Roman and Byzantine period, the carnival was marked as a tribute to the magical qualities of nature. However, it is also thought to have been linked to the worshipping of the ancient God, Dionysos, the God of Wine and Feast. Therefore, there is no coincidence in the fact that Apokries is always three weeks before the start of Lent. As in all carnivals, fancy dress is worn with everyone parading their costumes along the carnival route and through the town.
So as dates for the Orthodox Easter (Paska) change annually, so do the dates for Lent, and so therefore, the dates for Apokries. Lent begins 40 days before Paska and is still observed as a period of fasting from animal produce and oil by many Greeks. The last main Carnival day is always held on the Sunday before Shrove Monday ('Clean Monday' or 'Kathari Dheftéra') a last fling as it were, before Lent starts.
Carnival is always a hilarious day, and great fun to join in even if you are a visitor to the island, you'll certainly get a good walk and see lots of the great views along the way. The procession starts in the square in front of the Poseidonion hotel and works its way around the harbour, past all the spectators cheering their spectacular costumes, along the sea road to the town beach. From thereon ensues a noisy street party, with live musical events, as well as speakers blaring Latin-style carnival music. There is free-flowing wine, and plenty of mezedes, usually provided by the council. The youngsters will roam the crowd, looking for anyone not yet covered in foam or paper streamers, and remedy their "predicament" immediately!
The dancing and general imbibing continues late into the evening, well past the point when all the little revellers are begging to go home, but their parents are having too much of a good time! There is always ample goodwill, many friendly faces and lots of good fun. Should you be fortunate enough to be in Spetses for Carnival, it is definitely an occasion that you will not forget in a hurry!