Carnival or "Apokries" (literary the period during which Greeks do not eat meat-) are celebrated with group masquerades, dancing and satire; those customs vary depending on the area.
The elements of the Carnival in the Cyclades, just like everywhere in Greece, are the fun, the jokes and the disguises that are cause for roistering, wine drinking and teasing. In the Cyclades, the Carnival celebrations are special and full of inspiration and form the expression of a remarkable and unique folk civilization influenced by different cultures. During this period, Fat Thursday ("Tsiknopempti") is of special importance in the islands of the Cyclades, and on last Sunday ("Tyrini Sunday") of the same week the festivities reach their peak; this Sunday is also called "Great Carnival Sunday". The gatherings that take place on that day are enjoyable and festive with songs that indicate the existing feelings.
For instance, in Kimolos, people sing: "During those days and weeks whoever has friends or enemies invites them, and those whose people are abroad have also invited them back".
In Kato Meria , Amorgos, the Association " Ancient Arkesini" restores the custom of the "Captain": on :"Tyrini" Sunday, in the morning, the young villagers dressed in black and white, with belted breeches, caps and traditional vests decorated crosswise with colored ribbons, direct towards the Church of Panagia Epanochoriani. Those young people are accompanied by musicians who sing "mantinades" and the "Apokrianos" song: "The carnival is gone and so is "Tyrini" Sunday..."
The "Captain" is chosen by the priest of the village, who throws "gileos" (a kind of religious vestment) in the air and the person who catches it becomes the "Captain". The quintessence of the custom is the fact that the young man who is chosen or wished to become the "Captain" can reveal his true love or a secret past love by singing: "There is no worse passion and endless heartache than secret love". The "Captain's" horse bears fancy decorations and the guard-follower of the "Captain" named "Bairachtaris" is dressed in formal clothes. During the whole celebration fried fish and good wine are served and "mantinades" are also being sung. After the feast the procession towards the village begins; the children have already got there and revealed the news. The child that first announces the news for the choice of the "Captain" is rewarded with pocket money! The residents wait for the procession at Portara, the east entrance of the settlement. They cheer the "Captain" who improvises "mantinades" and rhyming couplets for the girls that he meets and buys his friends something in the traditional coffeehouses as well as the rest of the people.
The last stop is at Loza. There, the "Bairachtaris" holds a pole on the end of which are a loaf of bread, a cheese wheel and a piece of cod, and walks the mounted "Captain" three times around the square. The most important moment is when the "Captain" reveals his secret love inviting one of the girls of the village to become the "Captain's girl", he reads her a poem and asks her the first dance. The "Captain" and his friends continue enjoying in the village, singing and dancing the night away:" The Holy Lent with the seven weeks has come..."
At the last weekend of the Carnival at "Girokomeio Square" in Andros there is a float parade with groups of disguised people, accompanied with fireworks and dancing.
In Kea there are celebrations for disguised people, Carnival games and clown shows for children and adults. The festivities reach their peak at Ioulida on the last Sunday of the Carnival with the big parade of "Karnavalos", the Carnival King with the participation of disguised people and the performance of plays which satirize everyday life. The celebration becomes a big party and the Municipal Authorities offer wine, "souvlaki" and lemon flavored rice puddings.
In the villages of Naxos there are still ancient elements that derive from the worship of Dionysus. On "Kreatini" Sunday "Koudounatoi" show up in the streets; they are young people with masks, who wear hooded cloaks and have hanged bells around their waists and chests, and dance making a really distinctive noise and the locals offer them eggs. On Clean Monday "foustanellatoi" show up in the streets; they are young people without masks who are dressed in a festive way and play the violin.
At the central square of Fira, Santorini, the Municipality of Thira organizes a Carnival parade in which all the schools of the island participate.
In Serifos, on "Tyrini" Sunday the custom of "Kapetanaia" takes place-it is similar to that of the "Captain" in Amorgos.
Sifnos is loyal to tradition and maintains the Carnival customs with inspiration and a great sense of humor, such as the "Kamilosies", the masquerades with disguised people who are called "Kamiles" (Greek word for camel) in the local dialect. The "takimi" plays the most important role in this case-it is a music couple that plays the violin and the lute during the meals at the so-called "trapezes" (tables). Many of the Carnival dances, such as the one of "Kyr-Vorias" (Mr. Northern), date back to the pre-Christian period, when people were influenced by pagan folklores and used to pacify the natural elements that would trouble them. The dance of "Kyr-Vorias" is dedicated to the wind and takes place at the yard of Panagia Kogchi Church in Artemonas. The priest is the first to dance and then the residents of the island follow him in disguise. During the celebration many poems are heard while the attendants enjoy the traditional chickpea soup, meat with pasta or potatoes, or cod with a potato salad, with plenty of wine and listen to traditional music played by the violin as well as the lute.
In Syros, the Carnival of the Municipality of Ano Syros, with the revival of traditional customs in the alleys of the medieval settlements, is one of the most important celebrations in the island with masquerades, the so-called "zeimpekia", dancing and joyous carnival music played by traditional instruments. On Clean Monday, in Galissa village, Ano Syros, people fly kites in the countryside; they enjoy Lenten food and local traditional music.
In Tinos, on Fat Thursday, in the traditional coffeehouse of Triantaros village the customs of "Carnival Dance" and "Love Primer" are restored- there, the dancers, forming a cycle, sing satiric songs alternately, following the order of the alphabet, based on the first letter of every lyric. The celebration is accompanied with local dainties and sweets.
On the last Sunday of the Carnival there is a Carnival festival in Flatados village, each year with a different theme, where dainties are offered and the attendants dance under the sounds of bagpipes, violins and guitars. On the same day in Agapi village they celebrate the custom of "Makaronas" (pasta-lover in Greek). The residents carry a man effigy made of hay around the streets of the village, while lamenting, and they finally burn it, at the central square of the village. Then the residents and visitors get together in the lodge of the parish in order to eat a traditional pasta dish.