February events & festivals in Greece

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1. Apokries (Carnival)

Taking place every year between February and March, Apokries is Greece’s version of Carnival and is one of the most beloved traditions in the country. The exact dates of the carnival vary, depending on Easter but it is celebrated before the period of Great Lent, or “Sarakosti.” Apokries is period of costume parties, meat-free feasts, dancing, drinking and merrymaking which reaches its peak with extravagant parades of giant floats and colorful street groups. In every village, town or city some kind of celebration is going on.

The city of Patras in Peloponnese boasts one of the most famous and vibrant carnival celebration in Greece and all of Europe. Treasure hunts, Children’s Parades, the huge Carnival Float Parade, street theaters , exhibitions, artistic activities, concerts,   the spectacular burning of the King Carnival in the Closing Ceremony at the port of St. Nicholas – the list is endless.

Patras Carnival (Credit: Gontzi at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Another impressive place to visit in this occasion is Rethymno, a small town organizing since 1914 the best known and the biggest carnival in Crete with a unique Venetian style. Today’s typical celebrations include a diversity of events for eleven different days during the span of three weeks. Among these, the treasure hunt, the dance of the teams, the final Grand Parade or Sunday Parade.

Carnival in Rethymno, Greece (Credit: Macaris.gr)

Another celebrated carnival in Greece is Xanthiotiko-Thracian Folk Festival, hosted in Xanthi town in Thrace. Founded in 1966, it is the biggest event of its kind in northern Greece and the second biggest in Greece, following the Patras Carnival. The highlight in Xanthi’s carnival is the the custom of burning the “Tzaros”. According to the inhabitants of Eastern Thrace, “Tzaros” was a man-made model, mounted on a pile of holly trees.

Xanthiotiko Carnival (Credit: Xenius-zeus.gr)

Other Carnival customary practices and traditions take place in other smaller towns like Galaxidi, Naousa, Kastoria. Naousa’s carnival is among the oldest Greek traditions which have managed to survive to this very day. It has elements from ancient Greece and is also deeply linked with the Heroic city’s struggle against Ottoman rule.

The islands of Skyros, Chios, Aegina, Naxos, Corfu and Zakynthos are also famous for their customs and traditions of Apokries.

Carnival in Naoussa, Imathia, Greece (Credit: Anastasiapanag/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)