The name “Apokreas” derivies from the Greek phrase Apoxh apo kreas, literally meaning “goodbye to meat.”

Similarly, the word “carnivale” derives from the Latin carne, meaning “meat,” and vale, meaning “goodbye.” Originally a pagan feast marking the advent of spring and a celebration of fertility and the fecundity of nature, today Apokreas marks the beginning of the Greek Orthodox Lent, a period during which many observers abstain from meat and dairy as well as oil.

As Apokreas marks the beginning of Lent, it is a “moveable feast”; in other words, like Easter, its date is not fixed according to the civil calendar. Held on the Sunday before Clean Monday, or Kathara Dtheftera, the beginning of Lent, Carnivale constitutes the last big party before the period of abstention. Locals don costumes and join a procession that leads from the center of Hydra Town, along the coast road to Kamini, and back to Hydra Town along the inland route. The party stops at various prearranged points along the way for complementary mezes (nibbles) and wine, and once the procession has reached its final destination, typically at Douskos Taverna, the party continues with traditional music and dancing into the wee hours.

On the next day, Clean Monday, or Kathera Deftera, Greeks enjoy a feast of predominantly fish and other nonmeat dishes. Weather permitting, locals also spend the afternoon flying kites.

Carnivale 2014 | Hydra Town

 Carnival revelers wait for the parade to begin.
(© Spilios Spiliotis/Υδρασ Πολιτεια).

For images of the Carnival parade in Hydra Town, see the Υδρασ Πολιτεια blog where Spilios Spiliotis has posted a number of fun photos. The Greek on his page translates roughly to

Hydra: Carnival 2014—a river mirth became a parade of fun and joy. The traditional carnival of Hydra started by Votsi Square [in the center of town by the Raphalias Pharmacy], with lots of fun, joy, and music. The carnival parade follows a route through the picturesque streets of the island … spreading joy and cheer throughout the town. After stops [a various points along the route for refreshment,] the parade ends at Duskos Taverna, ” where the spree lasts until late in the evening.

For a second batch of fun photos from Spilios, click here. Also see Foni Tis Ydra‘s Carnival article.

Carnivale Parade 2013

Uploaded to YouTube by Κωνσταντίνος Κουκουδάκης

Hydra Carnivale Parade 2012

Uploaded to YouTuby by Κωνσταντίνος Κουκουδάκης