The Carnival season, or as it is known in Greek as Apokries, is one of the funnest, most enjoyable annual customs to be experienced, by locals and visitors alike! Lying somewhere in between ancient myth and contemporary faith, the importance of the carnival fete in Greece is twofold. Linked to the ancient times, the carnival celebrations were considered as worship of Dionysos, God of Wine & Feasts; and of course its name reveals its more contemporary purpose: ‘carne vale’ in Latin means saying goodbye to meat, which is very similar in meaning to the Greek name. Essentially, it signals the commencement of the cleansing Lent period running up to Easter Sunday. But why not have some fun while we are at it? Religious customs may restrict our taste palettes this time of year, but also allow for many jubilant moments to be experienced.
Our city has already begun preparations in light of a month that brings together culinary customs and festivity celebrations, the latter of which pour into the city streets, filling them with confetti, streamers and happy faces.
Culinary customs during the Carnival season
Two days after the overly romantic Valentine’s day, on the 16th of February, throughout Greece we celebrate Tsiknopempti – we light the charcoal fires, prep and marinate meats of all kinds, and begin a carnivorous feast which represents the last week when we are allowed to eat meat, but as much as we want, in every shape or form. From then until Easter Sunday, meat is not permitted according to religious customs. Then, the White week follows, known in Greek as the week of cheese eating, with meat being completely absent from the dining table, however dairy products are allowed in abundance. This prepares us for Clean Monday on the 27th, which is the official beginning of Lent, and the end of the carnival celebrations.
Celebration customs & festivities around Heraklion
Heraklion features the regional ‘Kastrini’ version of the Apokries, taking its name from the Greek word ‘Kastro’, castle, and is in tribute to the Venetian fortifications that make Heraklion resemble as castle city. The celebrations take place during the 5th to the 19th February. Heraklion has a full program of festivities lined up for its residents, and guests of course, and for all ages! The highlights are small parade and treasure hunt for children aged 9-12 on Sunday 12th, that begins around the centre of town, at the Loggia. The following Saturday 18th, a huge parade is scheduled to happen, roaming the streets starting from Hanioporta and ending at Eleytherias square, with masqueraders and theme floats having the time of their lives. On the last day of the carnival celebrations, Sunday 19th, the Loggia instigates the 15th annual treasure hunt once more, for adults this time. And this is not all!
During the whole month of February, Heraklion is brimming with performing arts events that include musical, dance and theatre shows happening all around the city. The grandest show of all takes place on Friday 24th, with a massive concert around the Basilica of St. Mark. Ask our Galaxy concierge team to get the full informational program of events, so that you don’t miss out on any festivities if you are staying in Heraklion during February.