Saturday, October 30, 2021

Halloween -- Greek Style



Halloween is tomorrow.   Kwei's post on Wednesday explained the roots of Halloween, and revealed that though few places in the world appear to celebrate it, many do have similar holidays. Greece falls in the latter category, and Kwei's post reminded me of a blog I put up a half-dozen years ago.  I was going to write about how this year the scariest Halloween make-up may be the mask-less look, but feared that might be too political for the times. So, instead, here's my redo of "It's Halloween or Not" in Greece, accompanied by a big and embracing BOO!

In past years I often ended my time in Greece on Halloween.  My reasoning was simple.  Returning to New York City on Halloween meant that many of the same characters I’d grown used to seeing on Mykonos would be out in force on the streets of Manhattan.

Besides, I wasn’t missing out on any Greek ghouls or goblins (at least not of the unelected sort), because Halloween is virtually non-existent in Greece, except by expats for their children and some places catering to tourists.  That’s not meant to suggest Greeks don’t like to party in costume—the ancients invented it.  Modern Greeks do it big time during Apokries, a three-week festival preceding Greek Orthodox Lent (think February), also known as Carnival.  I’ve described those festivities of Lent before (It’s Mardi Gras Time in Greece), but this time I thought I’d concentrate on the costumes.

As reported a few years back on a website called Hubpages :

Adults dress up and throw parties or frequent the town cafes and bars dressed in masks, wigs and funny, scary or risqué costumes. For example men often dress up as outrageous women with high heels, short skirts, huge inflated false boobs and an overdose of lipstick, blusher and false eyelashes. Others may dress up as priests or wear masks of well known politicians, actors or film characters. They often carry props such as plastic battons, streamers, confetti, tins of foam, whistles and clackers; all adding to the rowdy party atmosphere.

Children - even babies - enjoy the fun too of course... masquerade parties are held in villages and schools for the young ones, who dress up in all manner of costumes from witches and warlocks to telly tubbies and angels.

Masqueraders use their disguises and masks to call anonymously at the houses of friends and neighbours, who try to guess their identities.

Cakes and sweets are offered to the masquerading children on these house calls, or shots of whisky or the local fire water to adults in disguise. This is usually a ploy to entice the masquerader to remove his mask to uncover his identity!

 So similarly there is a kind of trick or treating here in Greek Apokries, but ..... they get to do both. The treat is offered - the sweet, cake or whisky, but is then usually followed by the trick - throwing confetti, streamers or foam all around the house (yes I know it's tame, and just in fun, but you try cleaning up tons of the stuff from your carpet!).

At the end of the three-week period Apokries culminates with the Grand Carnival Parades which are held all across Greece. The largest and most famous of which is held in Patras. There are also large parades held in Athens and in Rethymnon, Crete, amongst many others.

I can't wait until NYC is back in full swing, and once again gets to dress up and let loose big time with the Big Apple's famed Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.

But once again this year I’ll be the wilds of New Jersey, wondering if those who stop by in bear, deer, or coyote costume are simply treat seekers dressed in life-like animal couture, or the real deal.  Perhaps I should ask each visitor to grunt, snort, or yip before giving them what they're want, then judge their authenticity from the reactions.  Then again, perhaps that's unwise...after all, two-legged creatures can be notoriously unpredictable.



Jeff’s Events


Thursday, November 18, 2021 @ 16:00

ICELAND NOIR, Iðnó Theater

Reykjavic, Iceland

Panelist, Murderous Islands

with Katrin Juliusdottir, Michael Ridpath, William Ryan (Moderator)


  1. Happy Oxi Day (six days late).

    I remembered to say this to my Greek friends who work at the local pharmacy, having learned of it here, then leading me to do research.

    1. The next time you see them, Kathy, sing them the chorus lyrics to this Betty Boop song and you'll really impress them. :)

  2. That story of Oxi day and the remaining Jewish member of the Greek resistance, a retired dentist, will stay with me.

    I mentioned to a Greek acquaintance about Oxi Day, a young woman who comes from an island near Corfu. I asked her what would have happene if Greece surrendered? Without a moment of hesitation, she said, "It would have been worse."