The Ultimate Guide to Greek Holidays and Traditions

Explore Greek culture through holidays and traditions in 'The Ultimate Guide': Discover ancient rituals, festive foods, and family customs.

Tour Europe profile image
by Tour Europe
The Ultimate Guide to Greek Holidays and Traditions

Greek holidays and traditions are deeply embedded in the country's rich history and cultural heritage. From religious celebrations to national observances and local festivals, Greece is a nation that takes immense pride in its traditions and the vibrant manner in which they are celebrated. Whether it's the joyous festivities of Easter, the solemnity of Christmas, or the exuberant atmosphere of local carnivals, Greek holidays are a time for family, community, and vibrant cultural expression.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the various Greek holidays and traditions that have shaped the country's identity. From religious holidays of great significance to the Greek Orthodox Church to national holidays commemorating important historical events, we'll delve into the diverse range of celebrations that occur throughout the year.

Moreover, we'll also unravel the fascinating tapestry of Greek traditions, exploring the unique customs and practices that are ingrained in everyday life. From traditional wedding ceremonies rich in symbolism and cultural significance to the elaborate preparations for Easter, including the mouthwatering lamb dishes and the vibrant tradition of dyeing red eggs, we'll discover the customs that unite the Greek people.

Additionally, we'll explore the concept of name days, a special tradition in Greece that honours the feast days of saints. This key aspect of Greek culture involves gatherings, gift-giving, and religious customs that further strengthen the bonds of family and community.

Join me on this journey as we dive into the enchanting world of Greek holidays and traditions. By the end of this article, you'll have gained a deeper understanding of the cultural fabric that defines Greece, and perhaps even be inspired to experience these celebrations firsthand.

Greek Holidays

Greece is a nation rich in history, culture, and traditions. One of the best ways to experience the vibrant Greek culture is by immersing yourself in their holidays and celebrations. From religious observances to national commemorations and even local festivals, Greek holidays offer a unique insight into the country's heritage. 

Let's explore some of the most significant Greek holidays:

Religious Holidays

Mass in greek orthodox church in Athens

Easter: Greek Easter, also known as Pascha, is the most significant religious holiday in Greece. The entire country becomes alive with festivities and religious rituals. Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with great fervour. From Holy Week processions to candlelit midnight church services, the atmosphere is imbued with devotion and joy.

Christmas: In Greece, Christmas is a time for family gatherings, feasting, and celebration. Greek Orthodox Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ with religious services and traditions. On Christmas Eve, people attend church services and return home to enjoy a festive meal. It's common to exchange gifts on New Year's Day, which is also a public holiday in Greece.

Epiphany: Epiphany, also known as Theophany or "The Blessing of the Waters," is celebrated on January 6th. It commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. The highlight of the day is the "Great Blessing of the Waters" ceremony, where a cross is thrown into the sea, and young men dive to retrieve it. The person who retrieves the cross is believed to receive blessings for the year.

National Holidays

Independence Day: On March 25th, Greece celebrates its Independence Day. This day marks the beginning of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. It's a national holiday filled with parades, flag-raising ceremonies, and cultural events. The main parade takes place in Athens, where the Greek Armed Forces march in honour of the country's freedom.

Oxi Day: Oxi Day, also known as "No Day," is celebrated on October 28th. It commemorates Greece's refusal to surrender to the Axis powers during World War II. On this day in 1940, Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected an ultimatum from Italy, responding with a resounding "Oxi" (No). The day is marked with parades, wreath-laying ceremonies, and patriotic celebrations.

March 25th: March 25th is a double celebration in Greece as it coincides with both Independence Day and the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. It holds religious and national significance, with events and religious services taking place throughout the country. It is a day when Greeks come together to honour their history and faith.

Local Festivals

Carnival: Carnival season in Greece is a time of merriment and revelry. Different regions across the country have their unique traditions and customs, but one thing remains constant – the vibrant parades and extravagant costumes. Patras, in particular, hosts one of the largest carnival celebrations in Greece, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Kataklysmos: Kataklysmos, also known as the Festival of the Flood, is celebrated in coastal areas of Cyprus and some parts of Greece. It occurs 50 days after Orthodox Easter and is associated with the biblical story of Noah's Ark. The festival involves water-related activities, such as boat races, swimming competitions, and the symbolic casting of small boats into the sea.

Assumption of Mary: The Assumption of Mary, also known as the Dormition of the Theotokos, is a significant religious holiday celebrated on August 15th. It commemorates the belief that the Virgin Mary was taken body and soul into heaven after her death. Pilgrimages to important monasteries and churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary take place, and religious processions are held, especially on the island of Tinos.

Greek holidays offer a glimpse into the country's deep-rooted religious beliefs, historical milestones, and local customs. Whether you visit during Easter, Christmas, or any other celebration, you'll be captivated by the passion and spirit with which the Greeks honour their traditions. These holidays serve as a reminder of Greece's cultural richness and provide a memorable experience for locals and visitors alike.

In the next section, we'll delve into the fascinating world of Greek traditions. Join us as we explore the customs and rituals associated with Greek weddings, Easter traditions, and the unique concept of name days.

Greek Traditions

Greek traditions are an integral part of the country's rich cultural heritage. Passed down through generations, these customs and rituals reflect the deep-rooted values and beliefs of the Greek people. From weddings to Easter celebrations and name days, Greek traditions offer a glimpse into the vibrant tapestry of Greek culture.


Greek weddings are known for their joyous and lively celebrations. They are often elaborate affairs that bring together families and friends in a festive atmosphere. Traditional ceremonies, dances, music, and delicious food are all part of the Greek wedding experience.

Traditional Ceremonies

Greek wedding ceremonies are steeped in tradition and symbolism. One of the most iconic rituals is the crowning ceremony, where the couple is crowned with wreaths made of flowers and leaves, symbolising their unity and the creation of a new family. The couple then takes part in a ceremonial walk around the altar, signifying the first steps they take as a married couple.

Dances and Music

Dancing plays a significant role in Greek weddings. The traditional dance known as the "kalamatianos" is often performed, with guests joining in to celebrate the union of the couple. Live music, usually performed by a band playing traditional Greek instruments such as the bouzouki, adds to the festive atmosphere and encourages everyone to hit the dance floor.

Food and Drinks

Greek weddings are renowned for their sumptuous feasts. Traditional dishes, such as moussaka, souvlaki, and spanakopita, are often served alongside local delicacies. Wine, ouzo, and other traditional Greek drinks flow freely, adding to the merriment of the occasion.

Easter Traditions

Easter holds immense significance in Greek culture, and its traditions are deeply rooted in religious beliefs. Greeks celebrate Easter with great fervour, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lamb Preparation

Roasting a whole lamb on a spit, known as "souvla," is a tradition central to Greek Easter celebrations. Families gather together to prepare the lamb, marinating it with herbs and spices before slowly cooking it over an open fire. The aroma of the roasting lamb permeates the air, signalling the arrival of Easter.

Red Eggs

Another cherished Easter tradition in Greece is the colouring of eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are dyed red, symbolising the blood of Christ and his resurrection. These eggs are often used in a game called "tsougrisma," where two people try to crack each other's eggs by tapping them together. The one whose egg remains uncracked is believed to have good luck throughout the year.

Midnight Church Services

On Easter Saturday, Greeks attend midnight church services known as the "Anastasi." The service is held in darkness until midnight, when the priest announces the resurrection of Christ. The church is then illuminated with candlelight, and the faithful greet each other with the joyful exclamation, "Christos Anesti" (Christ has risen). Fireworks light up the sky as the celebration of Easter begins.

Name Days

Name days hold great significance in Greek culture and are often celebrated with gatherings and special traditions. Each person in Greece has a name associated with a specific saint, and their name day is considered as important as their birthday.

Celebrations and Gifts

On their name day, Greeks traditionally host gatherings with family and friends, where they offer food, drinks, and sweets to celebrate. It's also customary to exchange gifts and cards, honouring the person whose name day it is.

Saint Days

Saint days are widely celebrated throughout Greece, with each saint having a designated day. These celebrations often include religious processions, church services, and feasts in honour of the saint. Local customs and traditions associated with specific saints may also be observed, adding to the uniqueness of each celebration.

Religious Customs

Religious customs are a key part of name day celebrations in Greece. Many Greeks visit churches or monasteries dedicated to the saint of the day, light candles, and offer prayers. It's also common to give donations to the church or engage in acts of charity as a way of showing gratitude and seeking blessings.

In conclusion, Greek traditions encompass a wide range of customs and rituals that are deeply ingrained in the fabric of Greek society. From vibrant wedding celebrations to the solemnity of Easter and the joy of name days, these traditions reflect the Greek people's strong ties to their culture, history, and faith. By participating in these age-old customs, Greeks keep their heritage alive and create lasting memories for generations to come.


Greek holidays and traditions are rich in history, culture, and significance. From religious holidays to national celebrations and local festivals, the Greek people have a deep-rooted attachment to their customs and rituals. These traditions not only provide a sense of identity and belonging but also reflect the values and beliefs of Greek society.

In terms of holidays, Greeks celebrate a variety of religious and national events throughout the year. Easter, Christmas, and Epiphany hold profound religious importance and are observed with great devotion. These holidays bring families together, fostering a strong sense of community and faith. The colourful processions, church services, and traditional customs associated with these occasions create a vibrant and captivating atmosphere.

National holidays like Independence Day, Oxi Day, and March 25th commemorate significant historical events that have shaped Greece's identity. These days are marked by parades, flag-raising ceremonies, and patriotic speeches, reflecting the Greek people's deep love for their country. These celebrations serve as a reminder of Greece's struggles for independence and the importance of unity.

Local festivals add a touch of regional flavour to Greek traditions. Carnival, Kataklysmos, and the Assumption of Mary are just a few examples of these vibrant festivities. Each region has its own unique customs and rituals, often involving music, costumes, and traditional dances. These festivals showcase the diversity and richness of Greek culture, allowing locals and visitors alike to immerse themselves in the joyous celebrations.

Moving beyond holidays, Greek traditions also encompass various aspects of daily life. Weddings, for instance, hold a special place in Greek culture. Traditional ceremonies, accompanied by lively dances and music, create an atmosphere of excitement and joy. The abundance of delicious food and drinks further enhances the festive spirit, making Greek weddings memorable occasions.

Easter traditions, too, are deeply ingrained in Greek culture. The preparation of lamb, the dyeing of red eggs, and the midnight church services all hold symbolic meaning and serve as reminders of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These traditions bring families together, reinforcing the bonds of love and faith.

In addition to holidays and celebrations, Greeks also celebrate name days. These are based on the country's rich religious calendar and honour the saints associated with individual names. Celebrations often involve gatherings, exchanging of gifts, and religious customs such as attending church services. Name days are cherished occasions that bring families and friends closer, reinforcing the importance of kinship and community.

In conclusion, Greek holidays and traditions are an integral part of the country's cultural fabric. Whether through religious holidays, national celebrations, local festivals, or daily customs, these traditions provide a sense of identity, foster community spirit, and celebrate the rich heritage of Greece. Embracing these traditions allows us to appreciate the values, beliefs, and customs that have shaped Greek society throughout history.

Tour Europe profile image
by Tour Europe

Read More