Annual Events in Greece (and a couple particular to Limni)
• 1st January - New Year’s – Vassilopita – A special occasion of cutting the pie where the pieces are offered up to Christ and then members of the household in particular order. Whoever receives the coin baked inside the cake is said to be blessed for the year. Most businesses and schools also offer this tradition and it can continue through most of January.
• 6th January – Epiphany – remembrance of Jesus’ baptism in Jordan River. After church, the cross is thrown into sea to sanctify the waters. Divers race to have the honor of retrieving the cross. The whole town comes out for this event which happens in almost all weather.
• “Tsiknopempti”- a Thursday in the second of the three weeks of Carnival- is celebrated at barbecue taverns by the whole family. This falls before Clean Monday.
• The last weekend of Carnival all the towns and villages have some events, a parade or a dance around a pole (like the Maypole) to celebrate the last days of the carnival. People dress up in different costumes and children and adults dance in the local town square.
• Carnival known as “apokries” in Greek – the dates vary according to Easter dates. Limni has a Carnival Parade starting this year. The local council owns about 300 costumes, so groups can choose what they want to be from what is available. There is usually also a carnival party with people dressed up in the evening in the local bars too. Everyone is welcome.
• The last event, the “scurrilous carnival”, takes place at Agia Anna on Ash Monday (known as Clean Monday in Greece). People there are celebrating using free and dirty language, a tradition that goes back to the ancient Dionysian feasts.
• Clean Monday and the Fasting (Nistisima) Time:
On “Clean Monday” as we call it, we celebrate the start of the fasting period with special vegan dishes – no meat for 40 days. We also fly kites on the beach or the soccer field. In Rovies you can watch the traditional dance “how to grind pepper”. Clean Monday has some traditional foods that most people eat: Lagana Bread, Olives, Pickled Vegetables, Taramasalata and finishing the meal with halva. The fasting period – called the Nistisima period is when no meat, fish, dairy or eggs is eaten and only bloodless fish such as prawns, mussels, calamari and octopus is eaten and spinach pies without the cheese is available as well.
• Greek Independence Day (from the Turks) -25th March – In Limni, the high school students have a parade along the seafront which is followed by Greek dancing. This is a celebration of the rising of the Greeks from enslavement to the Turks in 1821.
• Holy Week and Greek Easter – Dates Vary
This is the biggest celebration in the Greek Orthodox Church and even those who do not regularly attend church will attend at least one service during this time
~Children are bought candles which are beautifully decorated and often with a small toy included. These candles are to be taken to the church on Holy Saturday.
~ Good Friday – all day the church bells toll in a mournful way (as a reminder of Christs’ death). In the evening – around 9.30pm, there is a parade through the town with the Epitaph.
~ On Holy Saturday evening at 11pm, the Church service starts and everyone brings their unlit taper candles which are to be lit from the main candle (which has come from the light in Jerusalem). Everyone waits for the priest to come out and shout “Christos Anesti” – Christ is Risen, to which the people respond “Alithos Anesti” – He truly is Risen. (This exchange of phrases occurs for a few days afterwards as a way of greeting people in the stores and streets). People take their candles home and then bless the doorways of their homes with a blackened smoke cross from the candle. Fireworks, crackers and gunshots also go off after the cry of Christos Anesti.
Once people return home sometimes a meal is eaten and the first of the red eggs are cracked against each other.
On Easter Sunday, there is a lot of bustling around to usually prepare the lamb on the spit. This takes several hours and after the morning coffee, the men, who are usually preparing the lamb, start with the ouzo or tsiporo to help pass their time slowly cooking the lamb or goat to perfection.
~ Families usually gather together for Easter Sunday. If you are travelling within Greece and are lucky enough to be included in someone’s lunch, then it is customary to bring a dessert as an offering or some wine and flowers. If you want to eat at a taverna, the best is to check in advance if they are open and book in advance too.
~ Children and adults also spend the morning cracking the red eggs together and seeing whose egg survives the longest.
~ Chocolate eggs may be in the stores but most Greek families don’t subscribe to the whole Easter bunny concept and loads of chocolate eggs for the children, favoring their deep rooted religious traditions instead.
• ProtoMayia / Labor Day – 1st of May –
This is a national non-religious holiday celebrating both the Labor Day, stemming from the workers’ uprising in Chicago in 1886 – known as the Haymarket Affair. It is also a celebration of the first day of Spring and a celebration of the end of Winter.
Many people place wreaths of flowers on their doors which include a garlic (to ward off evil spirits, an ear of wheat to promote a good harvest and a thorn to keep the enemy far away). The wreaths were traditionally kept until they dried out and on the celebration of St John on June 24th were burned together at which point people would jump over the fire. Today, this is not practiced as much – although in Madoudi they still practice it. It is not uncommon in Limni to see people of all ages wearing wreaths of flowers in their hair; in a practice to be closer to nature. The day is traditionally spent going on picnics with family or eating in the garden.
Check back for updates and new events
Check back for updates and new events
• “Elymnia” – a series of daily events which runs from August 1st to August 15th, including cultural events, lectures, theatrical, musical and dance performances, and competitions on both sea and land. The events finish up on the 15th August with a spectacular show on the seafront followed with a fireworks display. Accommodation is always limited on this evening, so book early to avoid disappointment.
• 15th August (Tis Panagias / Assumption Day)– this is by far the biggest celebration of the year in Greece – and many refer to it as the Easter of the Summer. Firstly it is the name day of all the Marias, Despinas, Panagiotis’ and Panagiotas’ in Greece. Since Maria is such a common name, everyone spends the day saying “Xronia Polla”. It is also the celebration of the Virgin Mary. Virgin Mary is a holy figure for Greeks not just because she gave birth to Jesus but because of the help she has come to offer Greeks during difficult times and this date is dedicated to her ascension to heaven.
Limni is one of a number of places that puts on quite a spectacular event. There is always a church event. The nautical club does a re-enactment of a sea battle with burning torches and atmospheric music and the scene is quite dramatic and exciting all at the same time. The evening finishes with fireworks and the general mood is like a huge town party in the street. Most people go out for this evening so it is very busy.
• Swimming Races – end of August – there is an annual swimming race from the mainland to Limni, a 14km swim, that attracts people from all over Greece.
• Panayia – 7th September
Another special day for Limni, this is the celebration of the Panagia also, however the difference is….
• Edipsos Wellness and Fitness Festival – this festival started last year and ran competitive races for swimming, cycling and running. Athletes came from all over Europe for a fantastic and well organized event.
• Independence Day also known as OXI Day- 28th October – a national holiday to commemorate the day when Greece on 28th Oct, 1940 stood up to the Italian Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini.
The Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, returned home from a party at the German Embassy in Athens and called Ioannis Metaxas (the Greek general and dictator, serving as Prime Minister 1936-1941 – his death) delivering the following ultimatum from Mussolini. Allow the axis forces (Germany, Italy, Japan) to enter and base themselves in key locations in Greece. The alternative if they refused was war. Metaxas answered with a resounding No and then reinforced this by saying in French “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!)
Italian troops that had been stationed in Albania an hour or so later then invaded the Greek border therefore starting the Greco-Italian war (Oct 1940 – April 1941), which in turn led to the Balkan Campaign of WWII between the axis powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) and the allies. This later lead to the Battle of Greece, when British and German ground forces intervened in 1941. Greece had entered World War II.
Greece managed to ward off the initial Italian invasion, sending the Italian army back to Albania. This Italian defeat, and Greek counter attack, was called, “The First Axis Setback of the Entire War”. A second attempt in the Spring of 1941 was also started and failed. The Greeks had surprised everyone with their courage and determination.
• November – Olive Harvest – this is usually the time of year when people come to the village farms to harvest their olives for the season. They then take it to a nearby factory to be pressed for olive oil. If you want to join a harvest, contact us and we can help put you in touch with those looking for seasonal workers, including ourselves.
ALL YEAR ROUND:
Weddings, Baptisms, Name Days, Kalo Mina/Evdomada, etc
Other traditions that are good to be aware of if you are invited:
Special crowns are worn link by a ribbon, the bride and groom circle the alter 3 times together. If you invited to a Greek wedding, normally a gift of money would be appropriate or something of significance from your own country pertaining to weddings.
Children are traditionally not called their name until they are baptized. The child is fully submerged into the baptismal font which is with both holy water and oil. The child is dressed in a new outfit with their cross and those new clothes are not to be cleaned for 3 days. Children in the church help to hold the candles and only those who are baptized Greek Orthodox may be godparents to the child. The godparent is considered extended family after this event. It is usual to have a sit down lunch or dinner later on with festivities going until late.
The most common gifts are clothes and jewelry, although cash gifts can also be given.
In Greece, it is more common to celebrate someone's name day instead of their birthday. Children celebrate their birthdays with friends or at school until their teens, but after this, the name day becomes the main celebration event.
The person celebrating the name day offers a sweet treat (small wrapped cake) to their work colleagues or guests. People will show up to their house without invitations to offer their wishes normally with a gift for the person. There is an exception to this if the person has recently lost a family member. Since they are in mourning, then they will not celebrate.
If you are invited to a name day celebration take a gift such a bottle of wine, whiskey or other birthday style gift. People will say HRONIA POLLA! That is like a Happy Birthday greeting.
XRONIA POLLA is actually used in a lot of occasions and not only name days or birthdays but for all kind of celebration events throughout the year in Greece. It's a good one to learn and know.
Kalo Mina, Kali Evdomada:
A nice tradition in Greece it to start the month or week saying "Kalo Mina" (good month) or "Kali Evdomada" (good week).