Mardi Gras, Greek style: Street parties and Dionysian behaviour are all part of the intoxicating mix at the Apokries festival.
Any festival that celebrates the God of wine is worth the excitement in our books, and the Greek carnival Apokries does just that. The festival has ancient origins and is a celebration in honour of the God of wine and joy, Dionysus. It used to take place to celebrate the end of Winter but is now more commonly associated with the weeks preceding Lent, when devout Christians take start a 40-day fast leading up to Easter.
Apokries is full of street parties with much of the fun taking place in the Plaka and Moschata neighbourhoods of the city. Dressing up is a huge tradition of the festival, and both children and adults join in the festivities with the aim of concealing their identities for as long as possible. Costumes and masks are a must during the festival, and parties are organised every weekend, working their way up to the third weekend of the period when all the bars and clubs are decorated to welcome costumed party-goers.
The festival is not all about the costumes, and a huge part of the Apokries is related to food and feasting. The Thursday of the second week of the festival is when the costumes are donned and the party really starts, but it's also a feast day where people gorge on meats and fill the air with the smell of food. The third week (Tyrini) is known as cheese week, where meat is no longer eaten and instead is replaced with cheese and other dairy items.
The celebrations come to an end on Ash Monday which is a national holiday and traditionally a day when people head outdoors to fly kites and have picnics. Just take it easy on the wine; you might be honouring the Gods but you don't want to wake up with a sore head.
- Get there: Fly to Athens then drive to the city centre.
- Stay: Stay in the heart of the city so you can easily travel to any venue.
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