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Customs and Traditions of our land for Carnival celebrations………

The Greek Orthodox Church has given the name “Apokries” to the last three weeks preceding the coming of Lent (the 50-day fasting period before Easter). This period coincides with the celebration of “Megala Dionyssia”of ancient times, a feast dedicated to the god of ancient Greek mythology, Dionyssos, the god of wine and festivity.

The word “apokria” itself means abstaining from meat, and this is a celebration taking place towards the end of winter. If you should find yourself in our region during this period , then you are sure to participate in and enjoy endless fun and entertainment, rich feasting , plenty of wine, dressing up , joking and teasing.

Especially on the third –and last- Sunday , you will certainly come across people in the streets, locals or not, who are dressed up in funny costumes , dancing in the streets, teasing and playing tricks on the friends and relatives at the houses they visit.

Nowadays, in many parts of the Chania Region,  Carnival activities culminate with parades of masked, dressed up people and funny decorated “chariots”.

All this is a custom dating back to many centuries ago and its climax is on Clean Monday- the first day of Lent. This day marks the end of all carnival festivities and the beginning of the 50-day fasting period preceding Easter.

Clean Monday , the beginning of Lent, is a very special day for Greeks and Cretans and is celebrated mainly with specially prepared food for those fasting – no meat, no fish , no dairy products or eggs. A special type of bread is consumed  – called “lagana”- “taramosalata” (a delicacy made from preserved fish roe), pickles ,olives and quite a few others.

Family picnics and gatherings are a usual sight since this particular type of feasting and celebrating is more suitable for the countryside rather than cities.  It is also a special occasion for young children who make serious attempts at getting their kite off the ground and high up in the air if weather conditions permit.

This day was named “Clean Monday” by the Christians who wanted to emphasize  the fact that this was a day for the cleaning of body and soul. Another name for it is “Koulouma” –it means the trips into the countryside together with the flying of the kite.

No matter what it is called, the real meaning of the day is family gatherings, feasting, having fun.

Some of the most common foods consumed on “ Clean Monday” are :

Sea Food : shrimps, prawns, lobster, crabs, octopus, squid, cuttlefish

Shellfish : oysters, mussels, quince

Pulses : beans, lentils, peas etc.

Vegetables : all kinds of salads and pickles.

Lagana bread

Sweets : “halvas”, jam and fruit preserves, and various sweets made of thin crust layers sprinkled with finely -ground nuts and “soaked” in syrup.