Festivals and Celebrations
The main religious festivals in Greece are Easter, Christmas and Panagia (Assumption) but there are other celebrations throughout the year, some of which are detailed below.
New Year’s Day is the Feast of St Basil in Greece, associated with a good start for the new year.
The Epiphany on the 6th is a national holiday throughout Greece and is marked on Alonissos by a church service followed by the blessing of the water at the harbour. The priest then throws the cross into the water and some local boys jump into the water to retrieve it, the one who manages to find it being rewarded with luck for the coming year.
Late February sees the start of Carnival season in Greece and in Alonissos the last Sunday of this season marks the day of the colourful procession with floats, and people in fancy dress. With dancing, refreshments and a general party atmosphere carnival time is enjoyed by all.
Clean Monday or Katheri Deftera is celebrated 40 days before Easter, marking the first day of Lent. A national holiday, it is a time of fasting and cleansing in preparation for Easter and is celebrated throughout Greece with kite flying.
Independence Day, remembering Greece’s victory in the war of Independence against the Turks, is celebrated as a national holiday on the 25th of March. All the school children participate in the parade which begins with the laying of wreaths at the memorial near the school.
Easter is the most important religious festival in Greece and most of the events at this time centre around the church. On Good Friday a candlelight procession is followed through the streets of Patitiri whilst on Saturday church bells are rung all over the country signifying the resurrection. Easter Sunday is the biggest church holiday and lambs are roasted on spits as family and friends gather to eat and drink and celebrate together. Red eggs are cracked against each other with the person having the last remaining uncracked egg being guaranteed luck!
Labour Day on the 1st of May is generally marked by picnics in the countryside and kite flying.
National Whit holiday in June
Fishermen’s night – Each year the Alonissos fish festival is held in July. Each of the harbor towns takes turns in hosting the festival which consists of freshly cooked sardines, wine and of course traditional Greek dancing until the morning hours!
Agia Paraskevi festival – This month sees the celebration of Agia Paraskevi on July 26, the patron saint of Alonissos with the icon of Agia Paraskevi ceremonially walked through the streets of Patitiri. The festivities then begin with a party, dances and traditional music in the harbour. Agia Paraskevi was persecuted for being a Christian but refused to renounce her faith even when tortured.
Threshing Festival – “Alonisma” – Also held in July in the Old Village. This festival re-enacts wheat threshing so visitors can see how this was done in the old days. The festival kicks off with the mules threshing the wheat on the threshing floors and with traditional music, dancing and sweets. Visitors can sample frumenty (cracked wheat boiled in milk) which is made at that very moment!
Panagia or Assumption is the second biggest event of the religious calendar. It is the name day of the Virgin Mary and there is live music, food, wine and lots of dancing. The celebration is hosted by the Old Village and begins in the morning with a service in the little church at the cemetery (Panagia) in honour of the Virgin Mary. The service is then followed by another service which is held in the town square honoring the local men that were executed during WW2. This is followed by the laying of wreaths at the war memorial along with a role call of the executed men which is quite emotional. In the early evening, where the bus stop is, the celebrations really kick off with a full re-enactment of a traditional Alonissos wedding with all the wedding party dressed in traditional Alonissos costumes. The wedding procession goes through the village with everyone gathering again at the bus stop. Here you purchase a clay bowl and mug at a token price which comes with a food ticket. The bowl and mug are then yours to keep as a souvenir from the festival! With your food ticket you then get your traditional “wedding” meal which is goat and spaghetti in a red sauce – absolutely delicious! The meat is slowly cooked from the morning hours over an open fire in huge vats and the wine flows freely all night! There is a live band with festivities carrying on until the morning hours with dancing, drinking and singing!! If you’re lucky to be here on this day then the festival should not be missed!
Ochi Day (No Day) on the 28th celebrates the Greek refusal to let Italy occupy the country during World War II.
Christmas is celebrated in the Greek Orthodox church just as it is in the Protestant and Catholic churches with Christmas Day and Boxing Day being national holidays.