Eat all the mezes that are rich in olive oil, listen to the music that makes you dance and then want to cry; these village festivals are not popular but are a must see. Most festivals in Greece revolve around the Greek Orthodox religion and holidays mainly follow the same as the Catholic calendar. However, Easter is sometimes at a different time due to it following the Julian calendar. Whenever the holidays fall you can be sure that whatever is being celebrated there will be an amazing party and delicious food. Sound interesting? Here are the top five festivals that are celebrated in Greece.
Apokreas or Carnival Season
This Carnival starts three weeks before the start of fasting for Lent in Greek Orthodox tradition. Each region of Greece has different ways of celebrating the build up to the last weekend before lent, when the biggest wildest parties take place. There are brightly coloured costumes, parades, traditional dancing and carnival floats too, as well as plenty of delicious food. In one destination on the Greek islands, Skyros in the Sporades the whole town dress up as goats on the weekend of Apokreas. Now that is a sight to see. The Island of Crete has one of the biggest Apokreas festivals in the town of Rethymnon. You’ll find parades and costumes like the Venetian carnival and it is one of the best places in Greece to celebrate. During Lent many Christians abstain from meat, eggs and dairy products, olive oil and wine.
Easter is the biggest festival in Greece, celebrated everywhere all over the country. The whole of Easter week is celebrated day by day with different traditions which begins with the Saturday of Lazarus where children sing the hymn of Lazaros and collecting money and eggs from neighbours. A tradition that is followed all over Greece is the Good Friday procession. After the church services candlelit processions are led through the street and petals and perfume are scattered to represent Christs funeral.
On Saturday night Resurrection mass is said and then at midnight the lights are turned out and candles are lit to light the church as a symbol of the rising of Christ. After the church service everyone goes home to break their fast and colourful eggs are usually enjoyed.
With Easter Sunday comes celebrations and feasts. Traditionally a meal of roasted lamb is enjoyed at around midday and then festivities continue well into the night. Expect fireworks, dancing and singing and of course more food. Traditional costume is often worn for dances on Easter Sunday here too.
Skiathos is a lovely place to visit if you want to see a grand procession, Paros puts on amazing theatrical shows and Santorini offers an Easter celebration coupled with spectacular scenery.
If you are planning on visiting Greece during the Easter season you will have to make sure you are prepared. Packing light and using travel packing cubes, as well as planning your routes in advance will help you get around easily when there are lots of national holidays and amenities are limited.
In late June Greek Islands in particular celebrate Navy week and the love and reliance this country has on the seas. There are historical re-enactments, storytelling and many parties to honour their maritime past and present. In Crete celebrations are popular and widespread, especially in Soudha.
There’s plenty of music, dancing, swimming and even some celebratory sailing. Hydra also celebrates navy week in style and of particular importance is the naval hero Admiral Miaoulis and the local involvement in the War of Independence. Here you will witness a spectacular show which results in the burning of a ship to represent a Turkish war ship. Fireworks finish off this festival of a very enjoyable party week.
In Molyvos and Kaloni in Lesvos the festival is particularly wild where the ouzo and sardines flow freely and parties last all night.
The Greek summer festival, features a top line-up of local and international music, theatre, dance and drama. Many places where the concerts are held are world renowned historical sites. The main Athens venue is the Herodes Atticus Roman theatre also known as the Iródio. The setting is great for a Greek musical concert or symphonic orchestra.
The second main venue is the UNESCO site if the Theatre of Epidavros near Nafplio in the Peloponnese. The setting here is excellent for acoustics and has lovely views too. Athens events run from mid-June to early September.
This is sometimes wrongly called the Athens festival, however although the Athens venues are more prominent there are other places where the summer festival is enjoyed just as much.
August Moon Festival
There are special evening parties and celebrations when it comes to the time of the year when the moon is at its biggest and brightest. Different towns and villages have their own special events and the programs often change each year. Athens holds the biggest parties with the Acropolis or Roman Agora opening to the public for free to see dances and drama played out in the moonlight.
Music and history are the biggest focus during this time and artists often say they draw inspiration from the August moon. In Corfu you can find concerts at the old fort or enjoy the archaeological museum of Rhodes for free especially for the festival.
Have you been to any of these Greek festivals?
There are many other festivals in Greece that offer amazing times, food drink and dancing. These include wine festivals, art events, local markets as well as saint’s days and other religious festivals. Of course, some regions celebrate certain days more than others but you can guarantee that you will have an excellent time during any if these Greek festivals.
Which festival would you like to be involved in? Have you been to any of these Greek festivals? Which was your favourite?