August in Greece is always dominated by one of the most important days in the Greek Orthodox faith, the Dormition of the Holy Virgin, or as Greeks more commonly call it “Dekapentaugoustos.” Celebrations, customs, traditions and unique Greek “panigyria” take over the country to honor the Holy Virgin around the countless churches that are dedicated to her all over Greece.
We have gathered some of the most impressive traditions from various corners of Greece that prove how special this day is to Greeks everywhere who also call it “the Easter of Summer”.
- In Patmos, the island that is also known as the island of Orthodoxy, a procession that originated in the Byzantine years takes place in the historic path of the Apocalypse. Tourists and locals alike, follow the procession in an atmosphere of religious devotion that is intensified by the historical uniqueness of this special island.
- “Ta Fidakia tis Panagias,” roughly translates into the little snakes of the Holy Virgin. How could a phrase like this relate to a religious celebration? Well, in Kefallonia, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful Greek islands, there is a church dedicated to the Holy Virgin, where these small creatures take over the bell tower on the 15th of August and are then carried into the yard of the church for people to see. According to the Greek tradition they will bring good luck to the whole island and to anyone who decides to touch them.
- We are leaving the Greek islands for a while and are traveling north to a small village in Ioannina where a tradition that dates back to the Ottoman occupation takes place every year on the 15th of August. “Ntolia” a word in the regional dialect that would roughly translate into commands is a tradition that means to bring people together and end potential fights and misunderstandings between the villagers. One of the elders of the village will take a glass of wine and will take 3 sips while wishing something nice to 3 different people. After this he will choose the next person who will do the same thing with someone else. In case you were wondering, this performance is of course accompanied by the sound of music that will soon end up into a great dance for the whole village.
- Another tradition that dates back to the Ottoman occupation and meant to show the people’s desire for freedom and their pride for their Greek heritage, takes place in Siatista, in Kozani on the day of Dekapentaugoustos. The riders of the Holy Virgin (kavalarides tis Panagias), dressed in traditional clothing and with decorated horses, ride to the Monastery of Mikrocastro to pay their respects and then ride back to the village to take part in the dancing, singing, eating and drinking that goes on until the next morning.
- And finally Koufonisia are probably known for the most fun tradition of the day. After the church service has been concluded and the people have been offered some food by the locals in the yard of the church, the time has come for everybody to return home. Your typical white Greek boats are there to pick people up and transfer them back home. However, they decide to do so in a special way, by having an impromptu boat race that means to honor the important day for Greek Orthodox people everywhere in the world.
These is of course just a small taste of the numerous traditions and special events that take place in Greece on August 15th every year. Although, this year is not the same as always and a lot of this has been cancelled, this day will always hold a special place in Greek hearts. We, at Greek Lessons OnLine, wanted to wish you all a happy August 15th! Stay safe! Kalo Dekapentaugousto!