It is the most important celebration in Greece, the Orthodox Pascha. It is celebrated mostly after the Catholic one and it is a good time to visit Crete. It is a family affair and people are focused in the home, celebrating the resurrection of Christ. They roast goats, drink wine and eat kalzone.
Very interesting customs take place during the Holy Week and the long evening church services are attended by many people. During the Good Friday the Epitaphi, the funeral bier, is carried through the streets around the churches. In the cathedrals of the cities this procession is accompanied by soldiers, music and the crowd. In Agios Nikolaos and in more villages Easter starts with the burning of an effigy of Judas Iscariot the last night (the great Saturday).
Festival of the Virgin Mary, 14-15 August
It is a much more public celebration in the peak of the summer. Church processions are followed by open-air eating and drinking in the main square of the villages. It is regarded as second only to Easter.
Independence Day/Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March
The start of Greece's struggle for freedom against Turks in 1821 is celebrated. Military parades take place in major towns.
Arkadiou, 7-9 November
The heroic fall of the Moni Arkadiou is celebrated. During the uprising of 1866 they preferred to blow themselves up rather than surrender to Turks.
Sultanina, in Siteia, 16-20 August
It is festival celebrating the grapes harvest, with music, dancing and local wine in the old Venetian fortress.
Christmas in Crete, 25th December
On December 6th, we celebrate the Saint Nicholas Day, the patron saint of sailors and seamen who are a large part of Crete’s livelihood. And this is also the main reason why in Crete a wooden ship is very often exhibited as a Christmas decoration, in addition to the Christmas tree.
Χριστούγεννα (Christmas), a word created by the elemental Christ + birth, is the annual Christian feast of the birth of Christ and consequently all the feasts from that day, December 25, until the Epiphany ("Christmas Feasts").
A very important custom in the Christmas holidays is the exchange of gifts. Especially for children, the Christmas season is the time when they receive a significant number of gifts from their parents and relatives.
Important customs in the Christmas holidays are considered to be the Christmas carols, the New Year carols and the carols of Lights that are usually sung by small children.
Main customs in the decoration are the Christmas tree, the Christmas boat (Greek custom related to the occupation of the Greeks, the sea but also ecclesiastical reference - the Church is often symbolized by a ship), the decoration of the Christmas lights and the Christmas calendar.
During the Christmas period in Greece, special foods and sweets are prepared such as turkey, pilaf, Christmas bread, royal pie, kalzone, Sfakian pie, melomakarona, kourabiedes.
Christmas and New Year’s carols take place on the eves of the three celebration days: Christmas Eve (24th December), New Year’s Eve (31st December), and on the Eve of Epiphany day (5th January). Children go around their neighbourhoods and ring their neighbour’s door bells to sing and wish them blessings.
Epiphany, 6 January
Epiphany in Greece is called Theofania or Fota. The evening before the Epiphany, The Enlightenment takes place in churches and the houses. Priests bless all the houses, shops and offices holding a basil (for blessing) and people start feeling the enlightenment. On the 6th of January, the day of the Epiphany, celebrations are carried out near harbours with a large participation of people. The priest blesses the boats which gather in the main harbour of every city and he throws a cross in the sea. Then willingful swimmers try to catch the cross to become especially blessed.