Greece is steeped in traditions. This is because of its long recorded history, the many rituals and folklore passed down the generations, the predominant Christian Orthodox religion and also the unique Greek family way of life, where traditional behaviour is both highly regarded and the norm. In other words, it’s always been cool to be traditional in Greek society. The result is a rich selection of annual events which are celebrated to their fullest. It’s mostly the countryside that behaves in the traditional way, with the cities usually not too bothered. Hence, the cities empty of residents during annual tradition-related holidays and the unlucky are those city dwellers that don’t have relatives in the Greek countryside/villages and towns.
Probably one of the best times to visit Greece is during Easter, when the weather is lovely and not yet summer-hot. The people are mostly gathered at the villages and the parties are held outdoors, are day-long and combined with eating, dancing and singing. Although the whole of the Greek countryside celebrates, locations such as ultra-traditional Sfakia in Crete (fly to Heraklion), Corfu (where Agios Spyridon is celebrated on Easter Sunday) and Patras in the Pelloponese stand out.
Lamb roasted over a rotating spit is traditional Greek Easter fare. Just don’t get your dates mixed up, it’s only rarely that the Greek Orthodox and other Christian faith (e.g. Catholic) Easter dates coincide!
Saint days are also traditionally celebrated in Greece. For example, if you found yourself in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, during the end of October, you’d be happily surprised with the celebrations taking place during this otherwise drab month. The 26th of October is St Demetrius, patron saint of the city, day, while the 28th is the city’s liberation memorial day. This effectively means a three-day long celebration with fireworks, parades and many cultural activities. Prophet Elias day (usually sometime between the 18th and 20th of July) is celebrated at monasteries or churches located at a high point, usually up a mountain or the tallest hill on an island.
April the 18th is a new type of celebration, International Monuments Day, meaning free entry to many museums and similar locations.
April 23rd is Feast of St. George Day in Arachova by Delphi, another effectively three-day celebration. During the first two weeks in May, the Chalkidiki Sokratia Folk Festival takes place – simply fly to Thessaloniki, then take a bus!
The historic Battle of Crete celebrations take place on the whole of this island around the 20th of May.
The very interesting Mistras Paleological Festival (May 29th) is structured around a mass dedicated to the memory of the last Byzantine emperors. The fortified town of Mistras is in Laconia, Peloponnese.
Finally, on August the15th is the widely observed Feast of the Virgin Mary, also Name Day for Despina and Panayiotis and is celebrated with religious and cultural events everywhere in Greece.
Posted : Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 11:00
As well as writing about travel, Karen Bryan offers tips on saving money, frugal living and how to live well on less, on her site Help Me To Save