Masquerades origins can be traced manifestations of a fertility nature and have extremely ancient origins. Their purpose is to ensure health, the germination of the crops and the fruitfulness of the land, like the ancient Dionysian celebrations.
Popular legend has it that at these times – which coincide with the winter rotations of the sun – there is a preponderance of evil spirits on earth. Masqueraders during Carnival season disguise themselves to imitate the evil forces of winter and darkness in order to drive them from the people’s homes and fields, thereby ensuring that the crops take root and bear fruit come spring.
The traditional basic components of these masquerades are old clothing, animal skins, masks with animal or other features and, primarily, a great many animal bells. Both the bells and the personifications of the masqueraders are characterised by scholars as “apotropaic” symbols – i.e. used to ward off evil.
The use of disguise has also been suggested as a cover for people to over drink and eat without being recognised!
During the three weeks of Apokries many parties and events are held where people dress up in all sorts of disguises.
In 2020 Apokries season is from Sunday 09 February 2020 to Sunday 01 March 2020 and is split into the following weekly periods.
Week 1 – Triodon
The first week of the triodion is called “profoni,” as people used to loudly proclaim the arrival of the carnival season. According to tradition, during this week, people prepare their pigs to be slaughtered for the coming week, which is fully devoted to consuming meat products.
Week 2 – Meat week
Tsiknopempti – Thursday of meat week: 20 February 2020, this is the day when barbeques will spring up all around the island and various cafes and bars will have events.
Week 3 – Cheese Week
This week people mostly eat dairy products and eggs as meat is now forbidden until Easter.
Monday of cheese week until after Lent. Many people still adhere to this.
According to old custom, women never washed their hair during this week as it was said it would turn white if they did.
Main Carnival weekend Saturday/ Sunday – 29 February & 01 March 2020.
The majority of Carnival Parades are held over this, the last, weekend of Apokries and still the largest and most famous Greek carnival of all is held near Kefalonia in the town of Patras in the Peleponnese on the Greek mainland.
Clean Monday – 02 March 2019
The day after Carnival season ends called ‘Kathari Deftera’, οr Clean Monday.