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Festival & Holidays in Greece

Greek festivals

January 1 st

New Years Day (Protochronia) also known as the Feast of Agios Vasileios, after the church service, the exchanging of small gifts along worth music and dancing are part of the festivities.

January 6 th

Epiphany (Theofania). This is an important feast day in the Greek calendar, when priests bless the waters around the country, at Pireaus, which has one of the largest festivals a priest throws a cross into the sea and youths dive in and recover the cross.

January 8 th

Gynaikratia, this festival held in the region of Thrace in northern Greece, is one where the roles are reversed the women go to the cafes and tavernas, whilst the men stay at home and do the housework and cooking.

February 2 nd

Candlemas, a quiet religious festival held prior to the festivals of pre-Lent.

February

Is the main month for carnivals, for three weeks before the start of Lent, carnivals are held throughout the mainland and islands, fancy dress, feasting and dancing, having a good time is the rule of the day. The town of Patra in the Peloponnese region has one of the largest and most enthusiastic celebrations. Kathari Deftera (Shrove Monday), or Clean Monday is held seven Sundays before Easter, and is a time when families travel to the hills and fly kites and have picnics.

March 25 th

Independence Day and Feast of Evangelismos, Independence Day is held in honour of the 1821 revolt against the Ottoman Empire, The Feast of Evangelismos, is one of the most important in the Orthodox religion, it is when the Archangel Gabriel announced the Virgin Mary was to become the mother of Jesus.

April (Easter)

The Greek Orthodox Easter varies by three weeks either side of western Easter, and is the most important festival in the Greek calendar. They celebrate the resurrection rather than the crucifixion of Jesus. Many Greek families living abroad come home to take part in this celebration. The festival begins on the evening of Good Friday, with a candle lit parade through the streets to the local church, of a bier (perifora epitavios), representing the funeral bier of Christ. On Saturday night, a mass held in the local church, filled with worshippers, and at midnight the church is plunged into darkness, a single flame lights up and used to light all the candles carried by the churchgoers, and signifies the resurrection of Christ, it is very spiritual and emotional event. After the mass, fireworks and celebrations carry on throughout the night. One Easter Sunday a feast of grilled lamb and other local delicacies, and entertainment of traditional Greek music and dance conclude the fasting of Lent.

April 23 rd.

The Feast of Agios Georgos (St. George), who is the patron saint of Shepherds, is another important festival in the Orthodox calendar.

May 1 st.

Protomagia (May Day), families travel to the countryside to have picnics and pick wild flowers that they make into garlands together with garlic and hang them on doors, boats and cars to ward of the evil eye.

May 21 st

Agios Konstantinos kai Agia Elani, this festival is in honour of the first orthodox Byzantine rulers in Greece , Constantine and his mother Helen. As part of these celebrations, some villagers in the Macedonia region partake in walking across hot coals.

Analipsi (Ascension Day), this feast day usually held 40 days after Easter.

June

Navy Week takes part in early June, many ports and fishing villages around the country, celebrates the close connections the Greeks have with the sea.

June 24 th

Feast of Agios Ioannis ( St. John the Baptist), celebrating the birth date of the saint, bonfires are lit and the May Day garlands are thrown onto the bonfires.

The Hellenic Festival is held were Greek dramas and music are played in Athens and around the country, some in the ancient theatres.

June 29 th

Agioi Apostoloi Petros kai Pavlos, (Sts. Peter and Paul). This is a celebrated name day for the saints.

July 17 th

Feast of Agia Marina (St Marina), this fest day held in many rural parts of Greece and on the island of Kasos in the Dodecanese .

June 20 th

Feast of Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elijah), this feast held in many of the churches and monasteries dedicated to the prophet.

June 26 th

Agia Paraskevi celebrated in many of the larger villages and especially in the Epirus region.

June 27 th

Agios Panteleimon, the patron saint of many hospitals and some rural areas, it is also the name day for those christened Pantelis and Panteleimon.

The Festival of Folegandros features music, dance, and feasting throughout the week around the island.

August 6 th

Metamorfosi (Transfiguration of Christ) is an important day for the Orthodox Church.

August 15 th

Koimisis tis Theotokou (Assumption of the Virgin Mary), a public holiday plus a celebrated religious festival, many Greeks travel home to their native villages.

Patra Summer Festival (August- September), comprises of classical drama and music and art exhibitions.

September 8 th

Gennisis tis Theotokou (Birth of the Virgin Mary), celebrates the birth of the Virgin Mary.

September 14 th

Ypsosis tou Timiou Stavrou (Exaltation of the Cross), though this feast is held in the autumn, it marks the last of the outdoor festivals.

October 26 th

Agios Dimitris celebrated mainly in Thessaloniki with wine drinking and partying.

October 28 th

Ochi (No) Day a public holiday with military parades, it is held to commemorate the reply given by the Greeks to Mussolini when he demanded Greek surrender during WWII. The reply was a resounding No (Ochi).

November 8 th

Ton Taxiarchon Archangelou Michail kai Gavriil (Celebrations for Archangels Michael and Gabriel), are held in the monasteries and churches dedicated to these saints.

November 21 st

Eisdia tis Theotokou (Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple ), an important feast day, celebrated throughout Greece .

November 30 th

Agios Andreas (St. Andrew) in the city of Patra , religious services are held at the impressive Cathedral named after the saint.

December 6 th

Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) celebrated in coastal churches in honour of the patron saint of seafarers, travellers and children.

December 25 th

Though not as important as Easter to the Orthodox Church, it is still a celebrated religious festival.

Name days: many Greeks do not celebrate birthdays once they are over 12 years of age. They celebrate the name of the saint they received when they were baptised. Friends and family give small gifts are given small cakes and drinks in return.

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