What are some of the festivals and celebrations that take place in Greece throughout the year and what do they commemorate or honor?

Greece is a country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage that spans thousands of years. Throughout the year, Greeks celebrate various religious, national and cultural festivals that reflect their history, traditions and beliefs. Some of these festivals are unique to Greece, while others are shared with other countries or regions. Here are some of the most important and popular festivals and celebrations that take place in Greece every year.

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day, also known as St. Basil’s Day, is celebrated on January 1st with church services, festive gifts and a special cake called


. According to the legend, St. Basil was a generous bishop who secretly distributed money to the poor by hiding it in loaves of bread. The


is a sweet bread with a coin inside, which brings good luck to the person who finds it. New Year’s Day is also the day when children receive their Christmas gifts from St. Basil, who is the equivalent of Santa Claus in Greece.


Epiphany, also known as Theophany or Fota, is celebrated on January 6th and marks the end of the Christmas season. It commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, as well as the manifestation of his divinity. On this day, priests bless the waters and banish evil spirits by throwing a cross into the sea, lake or river. Young men dive into the cold water to retrieve the cross and receive a blessing from the priest. In some places, especially on islands, there are also processions of boats decorated with lights and flags.


Carnival, also known as Apokries, is a three-week period of feasting, dancing and masquerading that precedes Lent, the 40-day fasting before Easter. Carnival has its roots in ancient pagan festivals that celebrated the arrival of spring and honored Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. During Carnival, people dress up in costumes and masks, participate in parades and parties, and enjoy traditional foods and drinks. Some of the most famous Carnival celebrations take place in Patra, Xanthi, Corfu and Rethymno.

Greek Orthodox Easter

Greek Orthodox Easter is the most important religious festival in Greece and one of the most colorful and joyful events of the year. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and his victory over sin and death. Easter dates vary every year according to the lunar calendar, but they usually fall in April or May. The Easter festivities begin on Palm Sunday, when people go to church and receive palm branches that symbolize peace and victory. On Holy Thursday, people dye eggs red to represent the blood of Christ. On Good Friday, there are solemn processions of the epitaphios, a wooden bier decorated with flowers that represents the tomb of Christ. On Holy Saturday night, people gather in churches and light candles from the holy fire that is brought from Jerusalem. At midnight, they greet each other with “Christos Anesti” (Christ is risen) and set off fireworks. On Easter Sunday, families and friends gather for a feast that includes roasted lamb, salads, cheese pies, breads and sweets.

Feast of St. George

The Feast of St. George is celebrated on April 23rd or on Easter Monday if it falls before Easter. St. George is one of the most revered saints in Greece and the patron saint of shepherds, farmers and soldiers. He is also associated with dragons, as he is believed to have slain a fearsome dragon that terrorized a city in Libya. On this day, people honor St. George by attending church services, visiting his shrines or icons, and offering him animal sacrifices or donations. In some rural areas, there are also horse races or folk dances that celebrate his courage and strength.

May Day

May Day, also known as Protomagia or Labor Day, is celebrated on May 1st and marks the beginning of spring and summer. It is both a pagan festival that honors nature and its bounty, and a political festival that commemorates workers’ rights and struggles. On this day, people make wreaths of flowers and herbs that they hang on their doors or balconies for protection and luck. They also go on picnics or excursions to the countryside or the beach, where they enjoy music, food and wine. In some places, there are also demonstrations or rallies that demand better working conditions and social justice.

Athens Epidaurus Festival

The Athens Epidaurus Festival is the most prestigious cultural festival in Greece and one of the oldest in Europe. It takes place from June to October and showcases the best of Greek and international theater, music, dance and art. The festival has two main venues: the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a Roman theater at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, and the Theater of Epidaurus, an ancient theater in the Peloponnese that is famous for its acoustics and aesthetics. The festival offers a unique opportunity to watch live performances of classical and contemporary works in stunning historical settings.

August Moon Festival

The August Moon Festival is a special night that celebrates the beauty and mystery of the full moon in August. It is a tradition that dates back to ancient Greece and its lunar calendar. On this night, many archaeological sites, museums and monuments are open to the public until late and host concerts, exhibitions or guided tours. People also enjoy romantic walks or dinners under the moonlight, or visit beaches or islands where they can admire the reflection of the moon on the sea.

Ohi Day

Ohi Day, also known as No Day, is celebrated on October 28th and commemorates the rejection of the ultimatum that Italy gave to Greece in 1940, demanding its surrender or face war. The Greek Prime Minister at the time, Ioannis Metaxas, famously replied with a single word: “Ohi” (No). This marked the beginning of Greece’s involvement in World War II and its resistance against fascism. On this day, there are military and student parades, wreath-laying ceremonies and speeches that honor the heroes and martyrs of the war. People also display Greek flags on their windows or balconies and chant patriotic slogans.


Christmas is celebrated on December 25th and marks the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time of joy, peace and love that lasts for 12 days until Epiphany. During this period, people decorate their homes with Christmas trees, lights and nativity scenes. They also exchange gifts, cards and wishes with their family and friends. On Christmas Eve, children go from house to house singing carols called


and receiving sweets or money. On Christmas Day, people go to church and then enjoy a festive meal that includes turkey, pork, salads, pies and cakes. Some traditional Christmas sweets are


, honey cookies with nuts,


, butter cookies with powdered sugar, and


, fried dough with honey and cinnamon.