The 15th of August (or Dekapentavgoustos as said in Greek) marks one of the most famous national holidays in Greece (with the other being the Greek Orthodox Easter). On this day, the Greeks celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos which marks the falling asleep or “kimisis” of the Virgin Mary. It is considered a day of joy with celebrations and festivals (known as panigyria) happening all over the country, where locals and travellers come together to celebrate, dance and enjoy themselves to traditional music in casual settings, in the middle of a village, a big church square or any other open space.
On this day a very long list of names also celebrate their name day, including Maria, Marios, Despoina, Elona, Gesthimani, Heleiostalakti, Kristalo, Marieta, Mariniki, Mireille, Panagiotis, Panagiota, Mirella, Presveia, Symela, Theotokis, Theotokia, and any variation of any of the aforementioned names! In case you are wondering if I celebrate my name on this day, the short answer is no (tune in to Episode 7 of season 1 of the My Greek Island Podcast to hear the long version!), although if you do want to wish me happy name day, I will not complain! All wishes are always accepted with joy!
The week of the 15th August is also a summer city exit week and the day/week in which many Greeks from the cities and overseas return to their places of origin, while others head to the islands and seaside mainland leaving the main cities like Athens and Thessaloniki quite empty. Although this has slightly changed over the past decade due to the peak in prices during this time, that is, the week of the 15th August is the most expensive week of the summer to be on vacation and also the busiest. So nowadays, you have many people who may chose to remain in Athens during that week and even some that prefer to be there because it is quiet and the beaches nearby are calm.
Some destinations however are particularly popular on this day. See below to see some information about some of them.
Tinos is home to one of the most famous churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary (or Panagia as referred to in Greek) called Panagia Evangelistria church. The church holds a miraculous icon of Panagia found underground in 1823. The island is the centre of an annual pilgrimage on the 15th August, although this day actually marks a double celebration for the island, one being the religious celebration of Virgin Mary and the second a national celebration of ship Elli, a protected cruiser sank by an Italian submarine on the 15th August near Tinos in 1940. So during the day there are honorary cannon shootings while in the evening, the sacred icon of Virgin Mary is carried by officers of the Navy on one of the main streets of the island, Evaggelistrias street.
For anyone wanting to visit this island for more than just the celebrations of the 15th August, it is very famous also for its endless villages, each with such a different character and scenery, the gastronomy and its calm beaches.
Ikaria is an island in the Aegean known for its longevity. If you search the web you will find many videos about how people live longer and happier here. The island though is also very well known for its celebrations (Panigyria) in August, with the villages of Lagada and Christo Rachon being the most popular. The vibe is just incredible and the celebrations go on for hours, all night until sometimes the next day at mid day. People watch the sunrise together and keep celebrating and dancing, with the most popular dance being one called Ikariotiko, a folk dance of the island. The setting is very casual and everyone becomes one at these festivals. Food is usually served on baking paper (known as ladokolla in Greek)
Paros is one of the most popular islands in the Cyclades for Summer and for Easter with great nightlife, beaches, and gastronomy. The 15th of August is celebrated in the port town of Parikia where the church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani is located ( I know that's a mouthful..... listen to the podcast to hear my epic pronunciation fail, despite being Greek!). On this day, navy ships pay their respects and in the evening there is a festival with fireworks from the boats in the bay. If you plan to be in Paros during the 15th August, consider extending your trip until the 23rd when there is another famous festival called the Pirate or Barbarossa festival, taking place in the village of Naousa and where a representation of the pirates raids take place to celebrate the victory of the locals over the Turkish Pirate Barbarossa.
Have you ever watched or heard of Luc Besson's movie Le Grande Bleu? Well if you have, then note that it was filmed on the island of Amorgos. The island though is also the home to a phenomenal and second oldest monastery in Greece called Panagia Hozoviotissa, which is literally build into a cliff 300 metres above the sea.
Amorgos is also famous for its Panigyri in the village of Aigiali near the church of Panaghia Eptachoriani starting on the 14th of August and finishing on the 15th. The local community offers food , sweets and drinks, with the main drink being Psimeni which is very similar to Rakomelo. Tune in to Episode 7 of the My Greek Island Podcast to hear my funny story about a celebration I attended in Amorgos.
Koufonissi (or Ano Koufonissi) is the only inhabited island of a small group of islands called Koufonissia. The island is known for its crystal clear waters, chilled vibe and unorganised beaches. On the 15th of August, a boat from Ano Koufonissi heads to Kato Koufonisi (an uninhabited island of Koufonissia) where there is a small church dedicated to Panagia. There people visit the church have a feast and then return to the inhabited island.
Do you want to hear more about this day? Then tune in to listen to Episode 7 of the My Greek Island Podcast: Dekapentavgoustos. Click here to listen of search for us on your podcast platform of choice.
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