Ancient Greece gave us spectacle, drama, and perhaps the world's first ghost story when the Roman author Pliny the Younger wrote about the specter of an old man with a long beard haunting his house in Athens in the first century A.D., but modern Greeks never really embraced Halloween like much of the Western world.
A Greek belief that the souls of good people reside in paradise for eternity and return to Earth for one day each year may have morphed into the Christian All Saints Day celebrated on November 1, becoming the precursor to Halloween. Other accounts attribute the holiday's origins to the Celtic festival of Samhain when people wore costumes to scare off ghosts on the night before the new year began on November 1.
In modern Athens, bars use the popular holiday as a reason to throw lively costume parties replete with ghoulish decorations and themed menus, but the modern North American tradition of trick-or-treating really only takes place among expats who organize Halloween events for their children.
Apokries for Costumes and Fun
Since Greeks do not actually celebrate Halloween there are still opportunities to dress up, feast, and celebrate. The Greek holiday, Apokries (Greek Carnival) provides an opportunity for dressing up in costumes and having fun but this holiday is celebrated in February before Lent as part of the Greek Orthodox Easter tradition. Apokries runs ten weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter and ends on the weekend before the first day of Lent which is when the huge, colorful parades are held.
During Apokries, people dress in costume and go from house to house seeking treats for the children and spirits for the adults. If someone gives you a treat, you are expected to remove your mask so your identity is revealed.
Halloween in Athens
You're likely to find Halloween events at bars and clubs frequented by Americans or tourists.
- The annual Spooktacular Halloween Night at the trendy nightclub, six d.o.g.s., runs all night on October 31, and more than 2,000 people have attended the party in past years. The nightclub at 6-8 Avramiotou Street in the Monastiraki neighborhood transforms into a portal to the spirit world with live music, copious decor, wildly costumed guests, and cocktails fitting of the motif. The club posts event details on their Facebook page.
- The rooftop Galaxy Bar at the Hilton throws a Halloween party complete with a costume contest, Zombie drinks, and a front and center view of the Acropolis. Everyone in costume gets a free drink (no excuses with onsite face painting), and the person with the best costume overall wins a free night in an executive room.
- Kids can play games and win prizes at the annual Halloween Carnival at the Athens campus of the American Community Schools. All proceeds benefit the school's clubs and activities. Watch the school events website for details.
- The Hard Rock Cafe throws a Halloween event with trick or treating and other themed activities. Watch the Hard Rock Cafe Facebook page for details.
- And on Corfu, the infamous Pink Palace never misses a chance for a party. Each year the budget hostel-like hotel puts on a "Greek-style" Halloween celebration, promising traditional Greek-style cocktails with a Halloween twist. Orange ouzo, anyone?
Visit the chain store Epilegin at several locations in Athens for Halloween costumes and masks, plus other seasonal decorations.