Greeks certainly know how to celebrate. They party with communal verve and style whether it’s a religious holiday like Dekapendavgoustos (August 15th, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary), the anniversaries of legendary dates or contemporary cultural events. The key ingredients are usually a good selection of friends and loved ones along with great food, music, dancing, creative ideas, fireworks and a deep sense of honouring the local culture in earnest, with plenty of kefi. Here we list some of the most notable panigiria (festivals) and events marked on the summer calendar.
In Astypaleia there are several festivals throughout the year, but the most popular, as with everywhere else in the country, is that of August 15th, celebrating the Virgin of Portaitissa over a three-day period with numerous festivities and events.
Karpathos is famed for its loyalty to traditional customs, dances, and costumes, and on August 15th there are panigiria hosted all around the island, in the villages of Pyles, Olymbos, and Menetes with dances that go on till the crack of dawn.
In Rhodes, the largest island of the Dodecanese, there is a multitude of traditional festivities and events throughout the summer, but especially in August – the Asklipeio on August 1st, the ouzo festival, the medieval festival, folk dances and of course celebrations around the island on August 15th.
Patmos, known for its stunning Monastery of St John the Evangelist, where The Apocalypse was penned, also hosts an annual Religious Music Festival, a Festival of Folklore Dances and the International Film Festival.
Northeastern Aegean Islands:
Although it has become world famous as being one of the longevity-lands amongst the four Blue Zones in the world, Ikaria, (“the island where people forget to die”) is probably the most famous in Greece for its endless schedule of panigiria, which take place around the island especially between May and October. The list is literally endless, but some of the most popular festivals are that of the Virgin of Gialiskari and a more modern festival in Langada village that has drawn ravers from around the world.
On August 6-7, Lesvos celebrates one of its most famous and deliciously-prepared foods, the modest sardine, which originates in Skala Kallonis and is honoured there with the joyous accompaniment of local ouzo (also a traditionally-produced food) and music. On the 15th of August, the most popular celebrations take place in the village of Agiassos.
Northern Sporades Islands:
Throughout the scenic region (which includes the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, Alonyssos and Skyros) there are lively and colourful festivities organised especially on August 15th.
Syros’ capital of Ermoupoli is the capital of the Northern Aegean, and the island is known not only for honouring a coexistence of rich Catholic and Greek Orthodox traditions but also for its multi-varied cultural and religious events. Throughout the summer you can attend festivals celebrating tango, contemporary dance, international film and guitar (all in July), international classical music, rembetika music (August Moons), stray art, animation and the accordion (in August) and jazz in October.
In Paros August 15th is celebrated in the port town of Parikia, while on August 23rd one can enjoy the Festival of Pirates in Naoussa village!
Although it only has around 300 permanent residents, the island of Sikinos hosts one of the Aegean’s most famous traditional panigiria on August 15th in its Hora.
In Naxos, one of the most well-known festivals is celebrated on August 6th, the day honouring the Transfiguration of the Saviour in the villages of Glinado, Kourounohori, and Damariona, while on the 15th of the month the entire island hosts events with traditional foods, music and dancing. The most popular one takes place in Filoti village. Another major festival on Naxos is that for Aghios Giannis tou Nystefti, celebrated in the villages of Agersani, Apollona and Apeirantho.
Apart from the classic religious holidays, Andros hosts the International Festival throughout July and August, which includes theatrical and music performances in the Hora theatre, as well as the Trekking Festival in October.
Tinos gathers a huge host of pilgrims from around the country and the world on August 15th because of its famous Panagia Megalochari church. However, it also hosts several traditional and modern festivals such as those dedicated to artichokes, world music, jazz, and fishing.
On Corfu, the Transfiguration of the Saviour is celebrated with lively festivities on August 6th at several villages (Paleochori, Perivoli, Aghious Deka and Strinnila) while August 15th is celebrated over three days at Kato Garouna village and Panagia Odigitria is celebrated with paiygiria at Pelekas, Gastouri, Agrafous and Gastouri villages on August 23. A celebration unique to Corfu is that honouring Aghios Spiridon, the patron saint, on the Saturday nearest to August 11th with the Varkaola event, during which songs (cantades) are sung from people in boats in the Bay of Paleokastritsa, followed by a boat being set alight and fireworks launched into the night sky.
Lefkada celebrates August 15th at the Monastery of Faneromeni in Frini, but earlier in August it’s also worth attending the island’s annual re-enactment of a local Traditional Wedding in Karia village, and later in the month the International Folklore Festival. On August 6th the island also hosts the traditional Lentil Festival.
In Zakynthos don’t miss the 3-day Saint Dionysios Festival (August 23-26th), celebrating the island’s patron saint which attracts thousands of people celebrating in various villages.
In Crete, Greece’s largest island, there are too many religious, food, dance and cultural festivals to list here, but the most unmissable are the Cretan Diet Festival in July in Rethymon, the Feast of Saint Titon, the island’s patron saint, on August 25th in Herakleion, the musical Houdetsi festival, Matala international cultural festival and the Anogia wine festival.