With the United States enjoying Thanksgiving, we thought we’d write a post about the different festivals in Greece. Here’s all you need to know about the major festivals, celebrations and holidays.
Holidays in Greece
In a country where you get two birthdays (your official birthday and a name day), you might be right in thinking that the Greek calendar is overflowing with festivals and celebrations throughout the year! Many of these are based around key religious dates in the Orthodox faith, whilst others are holidays of national importance. If you’re planning your family vacation to Greece around any of these dates, be sure to include seeing these celebrations in your itinerary!
Celebrations, Festivals and Holidays in Greece
January 1st – The year starts off with the Feast of Agios Vassilis (Saint Basil, who is the equivalent of Santa Claus). In addition to church services, there is the vassilopita cutting. The person who finds the coin inside the cake gets good luck for the year!
January 6th – Celebrated across Greece, the Blessing of the Waters is followed by a priest throwing a cross into the waters of rivers, lakes and ports, where brave young locals dive in to retrieve it. Swimming at the time of year is only for the brave!
February-March – Carnival. “Apokries” as it is known in Greek is celebrated with parties, feasts and parades three weeks before Lent Monday. The best places to see parades are Rethymno, Corfu, and Patra. Note – The exact date varies from year to year, according to the Orthodox Calendar.
March 25th – Independence Day. Expect celebrations marking the declaration of the Revolutionary War against the ruling Ottomans, with military and school parades up and down the country. People also eat a special dish of fried bakaliaro (cod) and skordalia (garlic sauce) on this day!
This is the most important yearly festival in Greece, and the exact dates change from year to year according to the Greek Orthodox calendar. There are different events held during Easter week, and then on Good Friday, a candlelit procession follows the Epitaph on a procession from every church – of which there are many in Greece! After the procession, people head home to crack red-dyed eggs and eat Magaritsa soup (don’t ask what’s in it!).
On Sunday, the long fast is broken, and the smell of roast lamb hangs in the air. One place to truly experience Easter is the town of Arachova near Delphi. Another is Nafplio.
April 23rd – The Feast of Saint George (Agios Georgios). Again, there are celebrations throughout Greece, with those in Arachova being perhaps the most well known. On years when Greek easter coincides with St. George’s Day, you can expect major festivities!
May 1st – May day, Labor day, or the Feast of the Flowers.
May 21st – St. Constantine and St. Eleni. Two major Saint days, which also coincides with fire walking festivals in Agia Elleni near Serres and at Langada near Thessaloniki.
August 15th: The day of the Panagia (Virgin Mary). Celebrating Mary’s ascension to heaven, many pilgrimages take place during this period, especially on the islands of Tinos, Paros, and Patmos.
October 28th – Known as ‘Ohi’ day, or ‘No’ day. On this day, Greeks celebrate saying no to the Italians who had asked for their surrender during World War 2. Some military parades take place, as well as parades by representatives of schools. In Athens, the parade marches past the Parliament building.
November 17th – Celebration of the Polytechnic uprising against the Junta (military dictatorship). In recent years this day has been somewhat hijacked by fringe left and anarchist groups in the Exarchia district of Athens. We would suggest to stay out of the centre of Athens during the evening and night on this date.
December 24th – Traditionally a day when children go from door to door singing Christmas carols.
December 25th – Christmas Day
Find out more
And these are only the main dates! There are dozens more, varying from region to region. If you are planning your family vacation in Greece, and would like to know which festivals are happening during your visit, contact Kids Love Greece today. We’ll be able to let you know what events are happening during your visit, so you can really get a taste of Greek culture!