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books about greece culture religion historyGreek Festive Calender 20XX

Greece is a land of surprises. Whether it be the one-day seizure of power by the women, the military parades, with tanks rumbling through the city streets, the sinister masked figures dressed in animal skins and hung about with bells which disturb the winter peace, the ecstatic dances of the fire-walkers, or the sombre and moving rituals of Great (Holy) Week, there is much to be discovered and enjoyed in the religious, military, historical and folk celebrations of the Greek people.

Illustration: The Anastenaria, or fire walking ritual of Macedonia on May 21st.

Knowledge of what is on while you are here can make your visit to Greece much more rewarding. However, visitors should note that many important and interesting celebrations take place on the evening, or even the day, before the main date being observed.

  • Major Greek Public Holidays
  • Jan 1: New Years Day-Agh. Vasileiou
  • Jan 6: Agh. Theophania
  • March 4: Clean Monday (Lent)
  • March 25: Independence Day -Thotokou
  • April 1: Big (Good) Friday
  • April 8: Orthodox Easter
  • May 28 : Holy Spirit
  • August 15: Assumption Day
  • October 28: Nat. Holiday Oxi Day
  • Dec. 25-26: Christmas & Boxing Day.
an. 1

New Year's Day - Saint Basil's Day - processions with model ships in Chios

2

Shopkeepers' holiday

5

Eve of Theofania - The Little Blessing of the Waters (homes blessed by priests)

6

Theofania - The Great Blessing of the Waters (blessing of the sea, rivers, etc.)

During this period, mid-winter carnival festivities in many villages and towns of Northern Greece, e.g. Monastiraki, Drama

7

Saint John the Forerunner (Baptist) - People thrown into water in some villages of Northern Greece - Mid-winter carnival festivities in many towns of Northern Greece, e.g. Nikisiani, Pangaion; Volaka, Drama

8

Women's Rule Day (in parts of Macedonia the men and women change roles for the day)

17

Saint Anthony the Great - beginning of the Patras Carvival

18

Saint Athanasios - Animal sacrifices followed by communal meals in Northern Greece

30

The Three Holy Hierarchs (holiday for schoolchildren)

Feb. 1

Saint Tryfon - Blessing of the fields

21

Commemoration of the Liberation of Ioannina

27

First Sunday of Carnival (Little happens in most places until later in the season)

March1

First Day of Spring

5

Soul Saturday (Women visit graveyards with food for the dead)

6

Meat Sunday of Carnival - many more carnival events take place, e.g. Patras

12

Soul Saturday

13

Cheese Sunday - The climax of the carnival season - custom of the gaitanaki in Livadia; The koudounati in Apeiranthos, Naxos - the Dance of the Priests, Episkopi, Corfu - 'Yoghurt War,' Chalkidona - Launching of hot-air baloons, Nauplio, Kalamata - Goat dancers, Skyros - The Funeral of the Carnival - Patras, Xanthi, Zakynthos.

6

Clean Monday - The First Day of Lent - Kite flying - 'Vlach Wedding' in Thiva - Court of Justice for Rudeness, Karpathos - 'Flour War,' Galaxidi - Drama of the Aga, Chios - 'The cooking of the Bourani' (and phallic displays) in Tyrnavo

19

Soul Saturday

20

Feast of Orthodoxy (procession with icons around the outside of the churches)

23

Commemoration of the Beginning of the National Revolution - Kalamata

25

The Annunciation - Independence Day (religious services of thanksgiving, military parades) Lighting of the Olympic flame at Olympia: 12 noon, local time.

April 23

The Saturday of Lazarus - Lazarus custom, Dodecannese; Saint George Arachova, Melissia (Athens suburb), Menetes, Karpathos.
Blessing of the sheep, Asi Gonia, Crete - Climbing the rock face of Meteora, Kalambaka. Since this year St. George's Day falls before Easter, most festivities will be postponed until Easter Monday or Tuesday.

24

24th Palm Sunday - beginning of Great (Holy) Week - Procession, Corfu Town

27

Great (Holy) Wednesday - service of anointing in the afternoon

28

Great (Holy) Thursday - Important church services in the morning and evening - Feet-washing ceremony, Patmos

29

Great (Good) Friday - Important church services in the morning and evening - Evening funeral procession of the dead Christ - State funeral in large cities. Commemoration of Naval Engagement, Nafpaktos.

30

Great (Holy) Saturday - The First Resurrection service in some churches in the morning. Pot smashing and custom of the barrel in Corfu Town - Burning of Judas, Kos - Slaughter of the Easter lambs - The arrival of the Holy Fire from Jerusalem in the Plaka in the late afternoon. On the stroke of midnight, the commemoration of the Resurrection - 'Rocket War,' Chios - release of hot-air balloons, Leonidon.

May 1

Easter Day - Easter (Pascha) 'Service of Love' in the afternoon - communal feasting and dancing - Burning of Judas, Monemvasia, Symi , The shooting and burning of Judas, Asine, Syros; Religious processions, Zakynthos, Samos, etc. - The Saetopolemos, Messinia, Kalamata. May Day - Custom of the May Boy, Nafpaktos - carol singing, Kozani.

2

Bright (Easter) Monday - Processions of icons in the fields. Carol singing, Megara.

3

Bright (Easter) Tuesday - Processions of icons in the fields - Dance of the Trata, Megara. Twenty-five day procession of the icon of the Virgin around the island of Kythira.

6

The Life-Giving Spring - Processions of icons in the fields. Climax of celebrations, Laka, Souli.

17

Saint Nicholas the Neomartyr - Metsovo

21

SS Constantine & Helena - The Anastenaria or fire-walking ceremonies - Commemoration of the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece (services and parades)

27

Saint John of Russia, Prokopi, Evia

June 2

Ascension Day - Progress of the icon of the Virgin around the island of Siphnos.

18

Soul Saturday

19

Pentecost (Whitsuntide) Special service of kneeling in the morning - Gathering of descendents of kleftes at Monastery of Saint Simeon, Messolonghi. Sacrifice of a bull, Ayia Paraskevi, Lesvos

20

Holy Spirit Monday (Whit Monday) - The Miaoulia, commemoration of naval victories, Hydra

23

Midsummer Eve - Saint John's Eve - Bonfires lit - custom of the 'Speechless water'

24

Midsummer Day - The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

29

SS Peter & Paul - commemorations of Saint Paul's visits, Areopagos Hill, Athens, Veria; Sacrifice and communal meal, Spata, Attica.

July 20

Prophet Elijah (Profitis Ilias) - Mountain-top festivals

31

Custom of the Malliares, Ammos, Zakynthos, diving for weed-covered rocks at midnight, etc.

Aug. 6

The Transfiguration of the Saviour (Metamorfosi)

11

Procession of Saint Spyridon, Corfu Town to commemorate raising of Turkish siege.

15

The Falling Asleep of the Virgin - Major pilgrimage centres: Tinos, Paros (see below), Soumela - Funeral procession of the Virgin Mary, many places in Crete and the eastern islands - annual miracle of the Virgin's serpents, Kefalonia.

16

Saint Gerasimos of Kefalonia - procession

24

Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos - procession

Sept. 2

Saint Mamas - Sacrifice of sheep and communal meal, Skyros

8

Nativity of the Virgin Mary

10 The Armata, mock naval battle, Spetses
14

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Special Church service)

Oct. 26

Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki - Church services and parades

28

'No' Day (Services of wreath-laying and commemoration of the war dead)

31

Commemoration of the Liberation of Metsovo.

Nov. 7

Procession in honour of Saint Spyridon, Corfu Town

8

Commemoration of the destruction of the Arkadi Monastery, Crete

9

Saint Thokosti of Paros - Saint Nektarios of Aegina - Church services and processions

14

Saint Philip the apostle - Saint Constantine of Hydra

17

Commemoration of the attack on the Athens Polytechnic (March on the US Embassy)

21

The Entry of the Virgin into the Temple

28

Commemoration of the Destruction of the Gorgopotamos Viaduct

30

Saint Andrew - Church services and processions in Patras

Dec. 6

Saint Nicholas - Church services naval parades and and processions in port towns.

24

Christmas Eve - carol singing - Bonfires in Northern Greece

25

Christmas Day - sword dance in Veria

31

New Year's Eve - carol singing

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