The Greek name for Carnival, Apokreas, derivies from the Greek phrase αποχή από κρέας, literally meaning “abstinence from meat.”
Similarly, the word “carnival” 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, Carnival 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, 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.