OFFICIAL PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
-New Year’s Day 1 January: New Year’s Day is celebrated all over the world with greatness, brightness and various events. On this day we exchange visits and gifts. There are also various customs like New Year’s cake (vasilopita) etc. that we inherited from our Byzantine ancestors since according to information from ancient writers neither the Greeks nor the Romans used to celebrate the first day of the year. Instead, those two representatives of the ancient world, used to celebrate the first day of every month. In fact most Greek cities would not even agree on the beginning of the year. The same was happening between Eastern empires.
1 January, as the beginning of the yeaρ started being celebrated in Rome in 48 BC, during the era of Caesar, and borrowed a lot of elements from the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
-Epiphany 6 January: Water sanctification. A cross is thrown into the Sea and young men dive in order to catch it.
-Clean Monday or Pure Monday (the Greek Ash Wednesday) 27 February: 41 days before Easter. It is the day that fasting begins. On Clean Monday the Greeks fly kites, eat fasting food and celebrate the “koulouma”.
-The Annunciation to the Holy Mary 25 March: 25 March, 1821, is the beginning of the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman rule that kept in captivity the Greeks for 400 years. The official day of the Revolution’s declaration is the 25th of March. That day a large number of military forces gathered in Agia Lavra where Palaion Patron Germanos blessed and declared the beginning of the revolutionary struggle. On 25 March we also celebrate the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The joyful news by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, that through her the Son of God will be incarnated. “Now I am evangelizing great joy.” the archangel told her.
-Easter: Holy Friday to Easter Monday: On Holly Friday afternoon every church decorates its Epitaphios. During the procession of the Epitaphios, people holding lighted candles and chanting hymns are following filling the streets of every city and village of the country.
-Resurrection: It is celebrated at midnight the day before Easter with fireworks and candles.
-Easter: Traditionally during Easter day the Greeks eat lamb on a spit. Celebrations include songs and dancing during the day.
-Labor Day: 1 May. A lot of flower festivals all over Thessaloniki.
-Assumption of the Holy Virgin: 15 August.
-26-28 October: Three-day events in order to celebrate the liberation of the city and the patron saint Agios Dimitrios (26/10) and the national holiday (Oxi Day) with a military parade (28/10).
-Christmas: 25-26 December. For Greece Christmas is one of the most important religious holidays. The wish “Have a happy holiday” is one of the most characteristic wishes during the period before and after Christmas until the day of Agios Ioannis (13 days).
-Throughout the country, children walk from house to house in order to sing the carols on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day and Epiphany while at midnight people light up fires in order to send away the kalikantzaroi (malevolent goblins).
-In Greece the main Christmas dish is pork. Τhere is also the custom with the Christmas boat.
OTHER TRADITIONAL HOLIDAYS
-The Carnival: Carnival events that last three weeks and end on Clean Monday. Carnival events are organized in many parts of the regional unit of Thessaloniki.
– Pentecost: The holiday of the Holy Spirit is not a fixed one. It is always celebrated on Monday, 7 weeks after Easter. This day is a public holiday for public services and for a lot of office workers. Traditional events for the celebration of the Holy Spirit take place all over Greece. Among others in Drepano in Kozani a small fair is organized. Children and adults visit the church of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) to worship the icon and light a candle, asking for the epiphany from the Holy Spirit. Ιn the morning there is a Divine Liturgy. Also in Komnina in Eordaia, the celebration of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of the cultural events organized every year by the Pontic cultural association.
– Assumption of Holy Mary: For most people, 15 August is the Easter of the summer. It is celebrated with great brightness all over Greece, while a lot of people will then leave the urban centers in order to have their summer holidays.