Traditional customs of Santorini

santorini-customsSantorini, like most of the Cyclades Islands, manage, some more and some less, to keep many of their customs and culture intact to this day, which makes the visitor watching them magically travel to another era

One of the customs of the island that remains unchanged to this day is the “holy commemorations” or otherwise the celebration and festival in memory of each Saint. Just before each Saint’s Day, the church is cleaned and its icons are decorated, while in many of the island’s villages the road to the church is paved with rosemary.

In a public church, money is collected from everyone for the expenses of the celebration, while in private chapels the expenses are borne by the owners. If there is a house next to the church (known in the Cyclades as “festival houses”), it undertakes the preparation of the food. The men cook fava beans and other dishes in cauldrons depending on the season and if it is a fasting period, while the wine flows abundantly. In many of the festivals, a dance is set up with tsambounes, lutes and violins…

klidonasThe most important festivals on the island are: Panagia Myrtidiotissa in Kamari, Panagia Platsani in Oia, Stavros in Perissa, Prophet Elias in the monastery, the celebration of the Fifteenth of August in Panagia Episkopi and Kera as well as the Entry of the Virgin in Agrilia .

The Saturday of Lazarus is celebrated particularly spectacularly in the villages of Santorini. Lazarus is a large cross made of ship’s wood, while it is covered with rosemary or alysmari and the young women of the island sprinkle it with flowers and fill it with flowers. It symbolizes the resurrection of Lazarus and remains decorated in the square until Great Saturday.

The Good Friday tins

In the traditional village of Pyrgos, on Good Friday after the de-fixation, Tantalus comes out to the village to announce the event, while the bells ring mournfully. The procession of the Epitaph on Good Friday in the village and in recent years also in Akrotiri is a unique experience for the visitor.

Fires are lit in tin lamps filled with oil, which lend a particularly oppressive atmosphere, while women from the courtyards of the houses shower the procession of the Epitaph with rose water.

Resurrection cakes

The Santorini housewives prepare for Easter Sunday the etudinia (in Paros you will find them as mizithropitakia, in Crete as lychnarakia), which are cakes with mizithra, sugar and mastic and had a special way of “embroidering” them. For this reason, the Santorinian housewives used to gather in a house many together and make them and the best one would “kentage” them.

Klidonas of Ai Giannis

In Santorini, May wreaths are hung on the doors of houses until the Eve of St. John the Baptist or Klidona on June 23. Then they gather in the village squares in a big pile and set them on fire, while the inhabitants of all ages jump over the fire for good luck.

The festival of the Saviour 

In Pyrgos, during the celebration of the Transfiguration of the Savior on August 6, a special custom prevails even today: According to this, on the eve of the celebration, the young men of the village steal pots of basil from the girls’ yards and decorate the dome of the church with them.

Representation of the volcano explosion

An event that takes place every August, usually after the 15th of the month, is the reenactment of the eruption of the Santorini volcano using sparklers and flares. After the end of the performance, there is a concert and dance.

Traditional wedding in Akrotiri

wedding-in-santoriniIn the summer, visitors to the island can see the process of performing a traditional Santorini wedding if they visit Akrotiri.
Preparations for the wedding begin many days in advance and culminate on the eve when the bridal bed is made and the groom brings his casket of clothes to the bride’s house. On the day of the wedding, the priest, best man and groomsmen head to the nearest vine.

With them they have a carafe of wine covered with a white silk scarf and are accompanied by instrumentalists. As soon as they arrive, the best man waters a vine with the wine and the priest chooses two vines, which must have many “eyes” symbolizing the children the couple will have. The priest coils the vines in such a way that they don’t break because this is considered as jinx for the newlyweds.

The harvest & the canaves

vine-harvestThe word vendema is Italian and that’s how they call the harvest and the harvest season in Santorini. Preparations begin in the first days of August with the cleaning of the canaves (wineries). The grapes were transferred to the canvas and depending on their color (white or black), they are poured into a separate press. They are then pressed and stored in barrels.

On the day the pressing ends there is a big celebration. However, October 22, the feast of Agios Averkios, is also a great holiday for the Santorinians. It is the day when the barrels are opened and the wines are tasted. The barrels are crossed with a branch of basil, consecrated by the priest, while chanting they taste the new wine. This is followed by a feast with songs and dances.

New Year’s carols in Oia

The twelve days of the Christmas holidays were the only holidays of the year that the sailors of Oia spent with their families, since ships had returned from their voyages at the end of November. New Year’s carols were not sung by small children but by groups of men, mostly young men, accompanied by violins at noon on New Year’s Day.

It was the time of the festive table where all the families were gathered around the table and so all the houses had their doors open to listen to the carols from the village lads. Divided into groups, they went around Apano Meria with the violins and sang the carols in the neighborhoods as if they were chanting. Among the first houses they visited were the girls they secretly loved and with the excuse of the carols they had the opportunity to see their beloveds