Celebrations and Festivities in Greece: Party like a Greek
Being in Greece with children on a day filled with festivities is a blessing. For Greeks, every season there is a reason to party. You won’t easily escape the Greek dance floor, even if you claim you have two left feet and, trust us, that sort of… “speaking without words” won’t be Greek to you!
Here’s all you need to know about the major celebrations. You can read all about the National Holidays, in a separate article.
Baptisms and Names Days Celebrations
Being Greek Orthodox is the secular lifestyle for most Greeks. Religiously based events, such as weddings, baptisms, saints’ days define many annual festivities lasting for days.
Greek babies get their first names by being baptized. After the religious ceremony, a celebration with lots of food and entertainment follows. In Greece, a friend’s name day is more important (–and easy to remember!) than her/his birthday.
Traditionally, Greeks carry names derived from Greek Orthodox Saints, such as Giorgos (George), Maria, Yannis (John), Katerina (Catherine), Nick (Nicholas), Eleni (Helen), and Kostas (Constantine). Several Greek names relate to ideals such as Wisdom (Sophia) and Freedom (Eleftheria), or even to ancient Greece (such as Alexander, Aristotle, and Socrates).
Nearly every day of the year is dedicated to a Greek Orthodox Saint. Even if you are not named after one, don’t feel left out: All Saints Day covers everyone who may not be part of the daily, Christian calendar. The majority of Greeks follow the tradition of naming their children after their parents. As a result, cousins often share names, so some name days become major celebrations for certain families.
Famous all over Greece are wedding feasts. They are “big” and “fat.”
The preparations for these events start months before the specific day of the actual religious wedding ceremony. (Hint: If you have not watched the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, you may wish to now do so).
When Greeks organize a wedding, they invite their whole community, especially in villages or smaller towns. Even if you are not invited and happen to just pass by, they will be delighted to let you join their feast, a fun experience you should feel lucky to become a part of.
Regional Agricultural Festivities
Agriculture based events, such as olive picking, wine making, sheep shearing and the opening of the wine barrels are also festive occasions. Here are two examples:
One of the things you notice while driving in the mountainous areas of Greece is the goats and the sheep. They may even cause traffic as they block the road while waddling along. Sheep shearing and wool production has played an important role in Greek society since the Minoan era. As the days get hotter and the temperatures higher, it is time to relieve the animal of their wool. A shepherd invites family and friends to witness the challenging task and to celebrate together the job well done.
If in Greece when grapes are ripe, ask to join such a harvest and then experience the ancient winemaking tradition of grape stomping. Jump and dance on the grapes, feel them smash under your feet, while listening to music. If around in the fall, Greeks will open their wine barrels to honor saints (–such as Saint George the Inebriant), one more occasion for them to socialize and have fun!
October is the peak of the Greek grape distillation season but also the beginning of the preparation for the production of another Greek spirit: the Tsipouro (or Raki or Tsikoudia in Crete), begins.
Rakokazana is the distillation of Tsipouro or Raki or Tsikoudia and is celebrated in Crete and various other regions in Greece. A rakokazano looks like an over-sized pot or cauldron, and this is where the boiling of grapes takes place. Typically, rakokazana take place in villages and visitors not only watch the distillation process but also join the locals in the traditional festivities; they eat, drink and socialize while sipping raki.
Gledia and Paniyiria
In Greece, singing, playing instruments, and dancing are central activities.
Greek community feasts are called Gledia and they include dancing, singing, eating, talking and people of all ages in high spirits (kefi) who are willing to share such celebratory moments with you and your friends, as every Greek does with her or his parea (–company; bunch of friends).
Paniyiria is Greece are old traditional festivals (like big gledia) organized mainly during the summer months in the villages of Greek islands. Typically, paniyiria take place the day(s) where the main saint is celebrated. Paniyiria are typically a blending of a religious ceremonies and social festivities.
In every festival (paniyiri) there is good music, plenty of food and local wine as well as chanting and praying (in the church) Locals and their guests dance and sing traditional music all night long. Greeks love the paniyiria since this is an occasion where the younger and older are celebrate together to dance, to talk, to drink and eat, to have a great time!
If you are in Greece during summer, make sure that you do not miss a paniyiri or rakokazano or glendi! Feel free to contact the Kids Love Greece team or people in your hotel about the events in the area.
Best season to visit
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