Greek holidays 2023

Greeks wish each other Kali Chronia, Happy New Year. A special cake is baked, it is called the Vasilopita and it contains a coin. According to this folklore, whoever gets the pie with the coin is lucky all year round.

By January 6, all Christmas decorations must be cleared and the last Christmas trees burned. A blessed cross is thrown into the water and it is turned up by mostly young men. Whoever manages to surface the cross receives gifts or money from the spectators. The dip in the water is also seen as a purification of heart and conscience, a symbol of rebirth.

In some northern villages of Greece (particularly in the regions of Thrace and Macedonia) ‘Yinekokratia’ – or ‘the festival of all women’ – is celebrated annually. On January 8, couples reverse their traditional roles: men stay at home and do the housework, while women have a day off (often this means a pub crawl). In the evening they meet again and there is a party.

Carnival or Karnavali Greece: Carnival lasts 3 weeks in Greece. Patras is traditionally the city where Carnival is most exuberantly celebrated. The Greek name for carnival is Apokries or Karnavali and ends on “Clean Monday” (Kathara Deftera). On this Monday or at Easter it is an old tradition in some parts of Greece to burn a doll “Judas”.

Clean Monday or Kathara Deftera: The carnival (apokries) ends with “clean Monday”. It is a traditional kite day and the day when special flat bread (laganes), shellfish and sweets are eaten. No meat is eaten this day. The fasting period 50 days before Easter has already started.

Independence Day  – The uprising against the Ottoman occupation from 1821 is celebrated. There are flag parades all over the country with children from different schools, in Athens there is an annual military parade. Furthermore, on this day there are many folk festivals with Greek dance and traditional clothing. March 25 is also the feast of Evangelismos, day of the announcement or annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary, 9 months before Christmas. The Greek eats bakaliaro (cod fillet) and skordalia (mashed potatoes with garlic) on Independence Day.

The Good Friday service in the Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches begins on Thursday evening with the morning service (Greek:  Orthros, Slavic:  Utrenja). This service—often simply referred to as the “Twelve Gospel Service” colloquially—consists of twelve Gospel readings. The official name is “Akolouthia of the Sacred Passion”. In this service the Passion texts from the four Gospels are sung and 15 antiphons and kathisms are sung. The service has a particularly dramatic climax with the chanting of the 15th antiphon. Then a cross is carried through the north door of the iconostasis to the center of the church and placed there. After that, first the clergy and then the community venerate the cross. The text of the first stanza of the 15th antiphon is as follows:

“Today hangs on the Wood, he that hanged the earth over the waters; (3 X)

The King of Angels wears a crown of thorns,

He who covers the sky with clouds is clothed in mocking purple.

He who again set Adam free in the Jordan is struck in the face.

The Bridegroom of the Church is nailed down;

the Son of the Virgin is pierced with a lance.

We adore Thy suffering, O Christ (2 X)

Show us now also the glory of Your Resurrection.”

The next service, celebrated on Friday morning, is the “Royal Hours”. During the subsequent vespers service follows the propagation of the Greek: Epitafios, Slavic: Plasjenitsa. This is a cloth with an iconographically embroidered or painted depiction of the entombment of Christ. This remains in the church until Easter, as the place where the faithful venerate the Christ lying in the tomb.

On the evening of Good Friday, the procession with the Epitafios (Plasjenitsa) takes place.

As a special sign of the silence in the face of death, no Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Good Friday. The exception to this is when Good Friday on March 25 coincides with the Annunciation to the Mother of God. For this occasion there is a special combined liturgy of both feasts. Contrary to the Roman Catholic tradition, the Orthodox Church does not have rescheduled holidays.

Good Friday is a very strict day of fasting within the Orthodox Churches.

Preparations are made throughout the week leading up to Easter, such as painting the house’s steps and steps white, baking Easter bread and slaughtering lambs. This week is called the Great Week (megali). On Good Friday (Megali Pareskevi), each church carries a portable (Epitafios) decorated with flowers. This is carried in the procession on Friday evening, where people carry candles. This procession takes place in almost every town or village. On Saturday evening, people gather at the church, where the Resurrection (Anastasi) is commemorated at midnight. After this the bells ring, fireworks are often set off and sometimes bonfires are lit. Candles with “the Light” are carried home from the church. Easter is celebrated with song and dance and almost everyone eats roast lamb and kokoretsi.

Tsoureki Paschalino – Greek Easter bread. This bread is also called lambropsomo, which translates as “bright light bread” symbolizing the resurrection of Christ. The red painted Easter eggs in Greece stand for the blood of Christ and/or as new life, a new spring.

Kokoretsi are the seasoned entrails such as liver and lung of lamb or sheep and goat with the cleaned intestine over it. The lamb on a spit is the main course. Easter wishes in Greece are:

Kalo Passover and Kali Anastasi – Good Easter and a good resurrection.

Christos Anesti – Christ is risen. Alithos Anesti – He is risen verily.

Labor Day and Flowers Day – May is traditionally the flowery month. Flowers are picked from which wreaths are made. These flower wreaths are hung on doors and placed on cars. Greeks go out into nature for a picnic or eat out in local restaurants, especially in mountain villages the festival is celebrated exuberantly. All flower shops and garden centers (even if 1 May falls on a Sunday) are open and flower wreaths are sold on the street.

Pentecost Sunday is seven Sundays after Easter. It is a church holiday and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit. It is celebrated with church services and belongs to the twelve main festivals of the Orthodox Church, the Dodekaorton. Pentecost Monday is called Agios Pnevmatos (Holy Spirit).

The Assumption of Mary is an important religious holiday in Greece. Processions display the many icons of Mary found in Greece in the past. A worship service is held and after this there are festivities in the village squares all day long.

Day of Nee  or Ochi Day is the commemoration of the “no” to the Italian ultimatum in 1940. Parades of school children and soldiers take place all over Greece.

The day of no generally begins with a church service, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony and speeches as a tribute to freedom. After the speeches there are school children marching with the Greek flag.

Annually on November 21. The Greek flag is raised on the Acropolis and a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Coincides with the Greek Orthodox holiday Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple (Mary Presentation).

Christmas or Christouyenna is the feast of the birth of Jesus. Children go door to door on December 24 and sing a kalanda and play a triangle. They then want some money or something sweet. There are many Christmas decorations everywhere, striking in Greece are the decorated or illuminated boats in honor of the patron saint of sailors: Agios Nikolaos. Among other things, sweet bread is eaten, this bread is called christopsomo: the bread of Christ. Greek Christmas Wish:  Kala Christouyenna and Kali Chronia – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

New Year’s Eve, even on New Year’s Eve, children go from door to door and sing the kalanda. There are some fireworks but much less than at Easter.