Greek celebrations and festivities

annunciationIt is known that the relationship of the common man with time is experiential, that is, it is determined by the work of each season of the year, always in the context of the interaction of the local community with the natural environment, the climate and the character of the local economy.

Summer, a time of abundance for the traditional Greek traditional agricultural society (thanks to the harvest of cereals and fruits but also the completion of the annual production of dairy products), is mainly associated with festivals, celebrations and trade fairs. Starting from the day of Ai-Gianni (St John) of Liotropi, or Fanisti, or Rizikari, or Klidonas, follows a long series of festivals and festivals throughout Greece.

The feast of Agios Ioannis is associated with the summer sunshine, a particularly important period. The day reaches its longest duration and begins to shorten, passing from the equinox of September to the beginning of the Twelfth Day in December, when we have the longest nights of the annual cycle.

agmarinaAs a passage it is associated with divination and worship processes to predict the future and to ensure health and well-being (New Year). The most common custom is to light fires at crossroads, with wood usually stolen by participants and old baskets – and a competitive feature. They throw the wreaths of May Day into the fire (lamp, invisible) and everyone jumps in turn for health and a happy new year.

The custom of fire, purifying and purifying, ancient, as evidenced by its relative prohibition by the Pentecostal Ecumenical Council (691-692), has been recorded in a relevant atlas (map) by the Research Center of Greek Folklore which is now circulating in electronic form.

The last week of June is the period of fasting of the Holy Apostles (June 29 and 30). From then until St. John of Rigologos (Beheading of Timios Prodromos, August 29) follows a two-month summer with open-air religious festivals, accompanied by animal fairs and trade fairs, popular sacrifices, banquets and dances.

The summer festivals, in addition to their original magical-religious core, the importance of which has declined, have both economic (trade fair) and social functions. They continue to take place in Greece, being unique opportunities for meeting expatriates inside and outside Greece. In the past, festivals, communication opportunities for the residents of the community, were particularly important events in the cycle of time, as long as during them neighborhoods took place, agreements were made, trade and social contacts took place.

virginmaryAnd today, however, despite the many opportunities for fun, the locals return to the religious festival of their village to meet relatives and friends, to show their economic and social progress and to celebrate in the traditional way. A typical event is the “ritual waste” of money during the dance on the organ players. The local identity of small societies is redefined in a few words, which in the modern context are characterized by diversity, ie the settlement in many and distant places (in Greece and abroad) but form a community on an imaginary level.

The popular faith is manifested in groups with the customary performance of religious ceremonies and festivals on the day of the feast of a saint. The ceremony may include a service in the temple, a procession of images around the temple or from the village, the raising of trees on the outskirts of the settlement (placing bread in a pit in the trunk of selected trees on the outskirts of the settlement to protect against diseases and the effects of evil ), bull sacrifice (Mytilene) and common food (kurbani), trade fair, events (performances disguised for the purpose of fertility and euphoria) etc.

Apart from the small and local pilgrimages, there are also pan-Hellenic ones, such as those of Panagia in Tinos, Katapoliani in Paros, Hozoviotissa in Amorgos, Panagia Soumela, Saint Raphael in Mytilene, Saint Spyridon in Corfu Kefalonia, Myrtidiotissa in Kythira etc. Their emergence in places of worship is associated with special historical conditions and circumstances. They perform religious as well as political functions that refer to the wider society and the national life.

There are important festivals and holidays with rich etymology in the spring and summer, especially in southern Greece and the islands where the climate favors outdoor celebrations, and in the fall.

Agricultural pastoral festivals, such as Agios Mamantos (September 2), patron saint of shepherds, the Genesis of the Virgin (September 8), known as Panagia Mikri, or Aposodeia, Karydous (Kastoria), Stafilopsi (Pontos), as it is associated with the collection of the fruits.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), with the symbolic transfer of the seed to the church to be blessed and a symbolic representation of the mourning of the dead, possibly of the passing summer (custom of Leidinos in Aegina) and other celebrations, such as of St. Euphemia (September 16), patron saint of raptors.

St. Eustathios, pastoral saint (in Pelion the domestic animals went to the male to ensure a stable conception), the festival of Myrtidiotissa (September 24) and Theologos (September 26) , are related to the gradual withering of nature and the passage to winter.


christNew year’s eve at 0.01 of the 1st of Januarry and Saint Vasilios day January 1st Celebrated all over Greece.

Gynaecocracy : January 8. Celebrated in north-eastern prefectures of Rodopi, Kilkis, and Serres, this festival reverses the roles of men and women. Men stay at home and do housework while women spend the day in the cafes and other social places where the men usually gather.

February – March

Carnival (Apokries): Three weeks before the start of Lent (Lent is the 40-day period before Easter). Carnival is celebrated in the evenings with costumes, dancing, and music. Patra is known to have the largest and most vibrant Carnival celebrations with decorated chariots parading through the streets.

On the island of Skiros men wear goatskin masks and hairy jackets to become half men, half beast. Other celebrations worth noting are in Athens, Veria, Zakinthos, Kefallonia, and Naoussa in Macedonia, Kozani, Xanthi, Mesta and Olimbi (on the island of Chios), Galaxidi, Thebes, Poligiros, Thimiana, Lamia, Messini, Sohos, Serres, Agiassos (on the island of Lesvos), Karpathos, Iraklio and Rethimno (on the island of Crete), Amfissa, Efxinoupolis (near the town of Volos), and Agia Anna (on the island of Evia).


aggeorgiosFeast of St. George (Agios Georgios): April 23 or the Monday/Tuesday following Easter if April 23 falls during Lent. Saint George is the patron saint of shepards so this is a large rural holiday.

In the city of Kaliopi on Limnos and in the city of Pili on Kos the day is spent racing horses.

On Crete a three-day-long feast takes place in Arahova and in Assi Gonia, near Hania; a sheep-shearing contest follows the religious festivities.


Anastenaria: May 21. This traditional fire-walking ritual is a mix of pagan and Byzantine traditions. In the town of Agia Eleni (near Serres) and in Lagadas (near Thessaloniki) villagers dance on burning charcoal while clutching icons of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen.


Navy Week: June. During this week, coastal towns, fishing villages, and ports in all of Greece celebrate the long Greek relationship with the sea and honor the Greek Navy. Unique celebrations occur in Hydra, in Plomari on Lesvos, and especially in Volos where the mythical voyage of Jason and the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece is reenacted.
Feast of St. John the Baptist: June 24. This feast is marked by the burning of the flower wreaths made on May Day.


Feast of St. Marina (Agia Marina): July 17. Saint Marina is an important protector of the crops, therefore this feast is a large event in rural areas. Although celebrated in many parts of Greece, this feast day is particularly important on the island of Kassos in the town of Agia Marina.
Feast of Prophet Elijah (Profitis Ilias): July 20. The hilltop churches and monasteries dedicated to this prophet, especially in the Cyclades Islands, celebrate the day with a feast.


Transfiguration of the Savior (Metamorfosis tou Sotiros): August 6. This religious holiday is celebrated particularly in the village of Hristos Rahon on the island of Ikaria, and in Platanos on the island of Leros. A bizarre tradition exists on the island of Halki where messy food fights with flour, eggs, and squid ink are the favored methods to celebrate.
Beheading of John the Baptist (Apokefalisis tou Prodromou): August 29. In Vrokounda on the island of Karpathos there are pilgrimages and celebrations.


The Virgin’s Birthday (Genesis tis Panagias): September 8. Throughout Greece, there are religious services and feasting. Childless women pilgrimage to the monastery at Tsambika on Rhodes. On Spetses they also celebrate the anniversary of the battle that took place on September 8, 1822 in the waters of the straits of Spetses. A re-enactment of the battle takes place in the harbor, followed by fireworks and feasting.
Exaltation of the Cross (Ipsosis tou Stavrou): September 14. This festival, one of the last of the summer, is traditionally spent processing and singing hymns. In the town of Halki this is a very important festival.
Feast of Saint John the Divine (Agios Ioannis Theologos): September 24. One of the smaller religious feasts of the year, the Feast of St. John the Divine is most strongly observed on the islands of Nisiros and Patmos.


Feast of St. James (Agios Dimitrios): October 26. In Thessaloniki, this feast is celebrated with wine drinking and revelry.


Feast of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel , or Taxiarhon: November 8. The numerous churches named after Michael and Gabriel, particularly at the rural monastery of Taxiarhis on Simi and the big monastery of Madamados on Lesvos, are the major participants in this feast.


Feast of Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos): December 6. Saint Nicholas is the patron of seafarers and has many chapels dedicated to him.
Christmas 25th of December celebrated like in the rest of the world