Mykonos: first come, first served!

While this is the right expression to describe the long queues outside fancy restaurants, all-day bars and night clubs of Mykonos at the peak of the summer, when said in February or March it has a totally different meaning. In short, it means that the first visitors of the year will be privileged enough to enjoy a tasting “session” for the new season. Like in a private “degustation”, they will be the first to try new shops, clubs and restaurants, and give their feedback to the locals, who have in store a truly royal treatment for them.

There is still time to book tickets for a 4- or 5-day early escape to this spectacular and most desired Aegean destination. Otherwise, make plans for next year’s opening of the summer season so that, besides having to yourself the main town’s picturesque alleys along with some of the most beautiful golden sand beaches in the Mediterranean, you will also have the opportunity to experience the Greek carnival, the Clean Monday and the long Easter Lent.

The Greek name for Carnival (from the Latin “carnem levare”, which means “stop eating meat”) is Apokries, and it has the exact same meaning. It is a most festive period of masquerading, eating, drinking and dancing in the streets, with its roots going back to Ancient Greece. In fact, it is related to the ancient rituals aiming at worshipping Dionysus, God of wine, agriculture, fertility, dance and fun.

Back then, people disguised themselves as satyrs and danced in the streets talking dirty and provoking their fellow citizens. With their masks hiding their true identities, they felt free to express themselves without moral restraints.

More or less, the same rituals apply in today’s Apokries. One of the most appealing is the Gaitanaki, a traditional Greek dance where there is one person holding a wooden pole with 12 ribbons hanging from its top. People dance holding the ribbons to create a beautiful, colorful braid on the pole, symbolizing the circle of life.

The festivities culminate in the last Sunday, with fascinating parades of giant floats and street groups going into flour wars!

After that, the period of Lent begins with the Clean Monday (Ash Monday), when most Greeks leave the cities for their homelands —or islands— to celebrate the day flying colored kites and sharing a most delicious menu, including seafood, legumes, bean or green salads and a special flat bread called lagana. Many of them will keep fasting for the entire 40-day period until Easter.

And then it will be time for the real Mykonos summer party to begin!