New Year's Day (January 1 & 2)
Epiphany (January 6)
Ash Monday (Easter -41 days)
Independence Day (March 25)
Orthodox Good Friday
Orthodox Easter Monday (Easter +1 day)
Labor Day (May 1)
Holy Spirit Monday / Pentecost (Easter +50 days)
Assumption of Virgin Mary (August 15)
"Ohi" National Day (October 28)
Christmas (December 25)
Boxing Day (December 26)
Greece hosts religious festivals with deeply rooted customs and centuries-old traditions all year round. There are endless lists of special events which you can attend during your stay in the country. Here is a short overview of Greece's public holidays:
New Year's Day
January 1 is one of the most important days for celebrations. The New Year in Greece is not only celebrated as the first day of the year, but also as St. Basil's day.
It is normal for Greeks to organize parties on the New Year, have gala dinners and exchange presents as, according to the local tradition, the presents are delivered by St. Basil (Aghios Vassilis), who is the Greek Santa Claus.
Epiphany (Theophania or Phota)
This Christian festival is celebrated on January 6. The local customs revolve around the "Great Blessing of the Waters" when a cross is thrown into the sea, lakes or rivers and retrieved by swimmers who are then entitled to good luck.
According to the old traditions, on this day the waters are cleansed of the "kalikántzaroi", the legendary friendly but troublesome goblins. These little creatures who look like elves surface on Earth only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany. The Greek legend wants these creatures' origin to be the center of the earth, where their mission is to cut the huge tree trunk symbolizing the earth's foundations. While on Earth, they love to hide in people's houses slipping down the chimney.
The ceremony of the Great Blessing of the Waters, wherever you are in Greece, is something not to be missed and is particularly spectacular in the main port of Greece, Piraeus.
Ash Monday (Kathari Deftera)
Ash Monday goes by many names including: Pure Monday, Shrove Monday, Clean Monday. "Kathari Deftera", Greek for Clean Monday, is considered to be one of the most important feasts all over Greece, when the 40-day period of the Great Lent (before Easter) is commencing for the Orthodox Church.
Clean Monday marks the end of the preceding Carnival celebrations and the beginning of the spring season. Kite flying is also part of the tradition.
The 25th of March is a very important date in the Greek history as it marks the official start of the War of Independence (March 25, 1821) after 400 years of Turkish Occupation. Greek citizens celebrate it to the full with school and military parades.
The same day though is important from a religious point of view; in the Greek Orthodox Church the Annunciation of Virgin Mary is celebrated.
Orthodox Good Friday (Megali Paraskevi)
In Greece, Good Friday is considered a public holiday. Nearly every business and shop will be closed, as well as most of the museums. Good Friday is an eminently mournful day that commemorates the Passion of Christ and the atmosphere of the day can be solemn. In the evening even the most remote churches honor the tradition of the "epitaph procession" filling the atmosphere with piety and devoutness.
Orthodox Easter Sunday
Easter celebrations are exciting all over Greece, as it is the country's most important and joyful religious festival. On Easter Sunday morning, as the 40-day period of fasting finally comes to an end, a lamb is roasted on a spit with the family and friends getting together to eat, drink, talk and dance. In some little towns it is a community celebration with rows of lambs roasting in the village square. Other highlights of the day are the sweet Easter bread and the red Easter eggs.
The Greeks prefer to spend Easter in the open country, amidst fragrant herbs and multicolored spring flowers where they may welcome the beginning of spring.
Orthodox Easter Monday
The day after Easter Sunday is celebrated as a holiday in Christian cultures and in Greece as well.
May 1 is the International Labor Day. In Greece it is also celebrated as the "Flower Day". People spend the day at the countryside, make wreathes of wild flowers and place them on the entrance door of their homes. Every public institution is closed.
Holy Spirit Monday / Pentecost
50 days after Easter, Holy Spirit Monday (also known as Whit Monday or Pentecost) is celebrated. It is a religious holiday which marks the descent of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. Most Greek people use this holiday as an opportunity to have a long weekend.
Assumption of Virgin Mary (Koimisis Theotokou / Panagias)
August 15 is the second biggest religious holiday after Easter. It commemorates the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ's mother (Theotokos).
On the island of Tinos this day is celebrated like on no other. It is also celebrated in almost every town and village in Greece especially those with a church dedicated to the Panagia (Virgin Mary).
"Ohi" National Day
On October 28 people commemorate Greece's refusal to let Italy occupy Greece during WWII ("Ohi" is Greek for "No"). All major cities have school and military parades.
December 25 is one of the most important religious feasts for the Orthodox Church. All towns in Greece are decorated with bright lights, bells, angels and other Christmassy objects. People celebrate Christmas by decorating their homes, preparing traditional sweets, having family gatherings followed by traditional meals and the exchange of presents.
Boxing Day / Synaxis of the Mother of God
Also known as the day of Glorifying the Mother of God; this is a celebration dedicated to Virgin Mary. In general, this day is considered a holiday because it's the day after Christmas.