In the Orthodox tradition Apokries is the preparation period before Lent. Apokries means literally saying goodbye to meat - Apoxh apo kreas – apo-kreas. In Latin the roots of the word Carnival has the same meaning – ‘carne’ is meat and ‘vale’ goodbye. Apokries runs for 3 weeks immediately preceding Lent. In 2011 Apokries runs from Sunday 13th February to Sunday 6th March 2011.
First Week of Apokries – from Sunday 13th February 2011
Apokries starts with the opening of the book of the Triodion, the 3 holy
Second Week- Meat week
Officially the last week of eating meat until after Lent.
Tsiknopempti – Thursday of meat week.
Tsikna is the smell of burning meat. It was the custom on Tsikonpempti for
everyone (including the poor) to charcoal grill meat and to melt fat over it so
the smell of ’burning’ meat permeated whole villages.
It is still the tradition to eat meat on Tsiknopempti, although nowadays it is
usual to go to a taverna for the meat feast. You’ll find that tavernas
everywhere are packed and many have live music too. Another glendi!
Third Week – Cheese Week
This week was also called ‘White Week’ as people ate mostly dairy
products and eggs. Meat was forbidden from Monday of cheese week until
after Lent. Many people still adhere to this.
Women never washed their hair during this week as it was said it would
turn white if they did.
The final day of Apokries, and it’s also the last day until after Easter that
weddings are allowed to take place. The Orthodox Church still follows the
tradition that no weddings or celebrations can take place during the 40 days
The old tradition says don’t get married on this day; if you do it will be an
Carnival parades are held on this, the last day of Apokrias.
Clean Monday – 7th March 2011
The day after Tyrofagis Sunday is ’Kathara Deftera’ , also called ‘Kathari
Deftera’, or Clean Monday, which falls on 7 March 2011.
Clean Monday marks the end of Apokries and is the first day of Lent
(Sarakosti).Fasting starts today and traditionally no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products or
oil are allowed to be eaten for the 49 days leading up to Easter.
Clean Monday is a Bank Holiday in Greece and also seen as the start of
springtime; it is celebrated by an excursion to the mountains or the beach to
enjoy a Lenten picnic or taverna meal, and fly a kite!
HOLY WEEK for Greek Orthodox Christians
If Apokria, Kathari Deutara and Lenten Sunday feasts are the preliminaries for Greek Easter, Holy Week is the peak of these activities.
On Holy Thursday the bright dyed red eggs that are symbolic of Easter in Greece are prepared. Tradition says that the Virgin Mother, Mary, dyed eggs this color to celebrated the Resurrection of Christ and to celebrate life. Every Greek family prepares these eggs as part of the Easter Sunday Resurrection Table.
Otherwise, the women in Greek families are busy baking koulourakia – butter twist cookies and tsoureki – traditional sweet bread for the Easter feast.
On Good Friday or Great Friday, flags at homes and government buildings are set at half mast to mark the mournful day. The Procession of the Epitáphios of Christ, the Ritual Lament that has survived from Homeric times, mourns the death of Christ on the Cross with the symbolic decorated coffin carried through the streets by the faithful. On Corfu, the procession of St. Spyridon is held on Easter Saturday.
Holy Saturday is filled with anticipation of the religious celebration of Easter and the Resurrection. People begin to gather in the churches and squares in cities, towns and villages by 11 p.m. for the Easter services. Large white candles are carried by just about all of the faithful. At midnight the church bells toll as the priests announce Christos Anesti!…Christ is Risen! Fireworks are set off, in some areas gunshots are fired and the each person in the crowd answers with the joyous responses of Alithós Anésti – Truly He is risen.