There are Public Holidays in Greece as there are in any other country, and the customs and culture in Greece would not be complete without the important events that take place through the year.
We all love to celebrate with our families over the Christmas period, we all like to receive an Easter egg every year and take part in various activities on an annual basis don’t we?
Well the Greeks are no different, but there maybe some you are not aware of.
In the past, I know many people have been visiting the island only to be frustrated by a large crowd in a village somewhere, and all the roads have been closed. Well, they do not do it to irritate people 🙂 – the chances are you may just have stumbled on a Greek celebration!
So, lets talk about them, what they are, why they are and when they are!
Οχι Day – Ochi Day
This is a very important day in Greece and is celebrated every year on the 28th of October.
The word Οχι/Ochi means ‘NO’ in Greek and this is exactly what was said when
Mussolini demanded his army be allowed into Greece at the start of the second world war.
Ioánnis Metaxás who was the serving Greek Prime Minister at the time replied with a defiant ‘NO’ which was a really big deal back then!
In fact, it mapped out the way for Greece to stay neutral for may years to come through conflicts. The Italians went on to try and occupy Greece with an invasion effort just after, but they were forced to retreat to Albania.
The celebrations are carried out all over the country (including Rhodes) and on this day you can be witness to a huge parade with military vehicles and soldiers as well as other forces such as the firefighters.
These parades all take place with politicians and other important figures watching on as the whole country marches with pride!
A really great day in my opinion. I have witnessed it many times and you can really see the Greek people take pride in what they stand for!
Greek Independence Day
Independence Day in Greece falls every year on the 25th March!
This is a very important day for the Greeks for a couple of reasons.
- Number One – As we discussed on the Byzantium and Middle Ages section of this website, the island was under the rule of The Ottoman Empire (The Turkish) for around 400 years (1522 – 1912).
However, Greece as a whole stood up to the Ottoman Empire in 1821 and they commenced a War of Independence. From this the Greek flag was raised on the monastery Agía Lávra on Mount Gelmos in Patras by Bishop Germanos.
This urged the Peloponnese to stand up against the Ottoman Empire.
- Number Two – The 25th of March also symbolizes the Archangel Gabriel coming to Mary to report she was pregnant. This day is celebrated with a religious feast for the news of this declaration.
Although the exact date of the stand against the Ottoman Empire maybe have not been exactly the 25th of March, it was around this time. Eventually over a little time it was combined with the celebration of the annunciation.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary
August 15th is the day Greece celebrates the assumption of the Virgin Mary.
It is celebrated because this is when The Virgin Mary was physically taken up and accepted into heaven. It is what is believed will happen to all Christians at the end of their life on earth. They will be taken up and accepted into heaven as per the promise made by Jesus.
In fact back in 1950, the Pope at that time (Pius XII) described this a gospel.
It is a celebration of Mary;s passage from life to death and her assumption into heaven.
Christmas is celebrated in Greece like it is in most other Christian countries but you will find it is a little more low key! it is certainly not as commercial as you might be used to.
In the big cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki you will see the big celebrations, but on the islands such as Rhodes, it is a very quiet time.
It is very much a time for family and you will notice that a lot of outlets choose to close down for the Christmas period.
Where in other countries it is the main thing to go to bars and have nights out, here it is not really in following with this. I always remember one Christmas day going out with my friend here for a beer on Christmas Day, and finally I came home empty-handed, and sober. Everything was closed.
On saying that, the Greek people do have a lovely time at home with their loved ones, and who can blame them for that? It is more of a private time rather than a bog social occasion!
They save their real celebration for Easter, which I will talk about next!
Pascha – Easter
This is one of the most important celebrations in Greece.
It is called ‘Pascha’ in Greek and as with other countries it falls on different days each year.
Of course these days each year are not random, but they are calculated using the following.
- Firstly, they take into account the Juilan Calender and not the Gregorian.
- Secondly, Easter must be after the Jewish Passover
- Thirdly, It must be on the first Sunday after the spring Equinox.
Naturally, Easter in Greece celebrates the resurrection of Christ as it does in other
Christian countries and you may agree with me when I say it has to be one of the most important events said to take place in the history of Christianity.
It is celebrated by the Greek people by coming out into the streets on the Saturday evening and following an icon of Jesus and to mourn his death. This is done after a church ritual which involved the cross been taken down and put into a casket.
They follow the icon back to the church and each person has a candle ready to be lit by the flame from Jerusalem at midnight. This is when the priest announces the resurrection.
The next morning, the Sunday, comes the time for family and a feast. Traditional Greek Food is served and they really celebrate this occasion with style!
Although traditional chocolate Easter eggs have made their way onto the shelves here, the actual Greek tradition is to make the eggs yourself.
In this case, normal eggs are pained red and this represents the blood of Christ. Before eating the egg, it is traditional practice to crack them with your neighbors egg as this symbolizes Christ breaking free from the tomb.
The one person with a whole egg left at the end of all the cracking games is the one that will receive all the luck for the next year.
You can see that the Easter Celebrations are taken very seriously in Greece.
the Epiphany is a celebration of the baptism of Christ also known as the ‘Blessing Of
It takes place every year on the 6th January throughout Greece.
A priest firstly blesses a cross and throws it into the water. In Rhodes this takes place at the main harbor in Rhodes town.
Although the waters are extremely cold in Greece at this time of year, a group of young men dive into the water from a few meters away in search of the cross.
The one to find the cross and retrieve it from the water is said to be given all the luck for the coming year.
So, were you aware of all of them? I am sure you have learned something the same as I have done since being here! What I wanted to do here was touch on some festivities which are important to the Greeks as opposed to the typical festivities.
Of course when it comes to the New Year, people pretty much carry out celebrations in Greece the same as any other country. The use of fireworks is dominant and there is a great party atmosphere. I think you get the idea 🙂
Have you ever been to Rhodes (or Greece in general) during a festivity? Did you get involved? I would love to hear from you.
Leave me your thoughts in the comments area below and I will get back to you 🙂
Click Below And Learn More About Greek Customs And Culture.
Well the Greeks are known for their great traditions and history, I didn’t know of the public holidays you have named above though.
Glad I found this article, as when I visit Greece I will have to look up to this holiday celebrations, I would love to participate in at least one.
More reason to put Greece in my holiday destination list.
Hi Anita and thanks for your comment.
Yeah, the Greek people really know how to live it up when it comes to celebrations and festivities. Some of them are just really simple events, but the atmosphere is fantastic.
Lots of Greek dancing, amazing food and activities, it is well worth participating.
Let’s hope you get here soon to experience it for yourself.
Greece, one of the countries in my bucket list. I just love reading about their rich history.
I would one day very much love to visit the country and experience their culture first hand.
Thank you for reading.
I hope one day you can make it here to Greece yourself. The history and culture here is something that everyone should experience in their lifetime. It really is quite wonderful.
Looking forward to seeing you here 🙂
I went to Greece (not Rhodes though) on a cruise and fortunately there were no major holidays during the time we stayed there.
I was completely unfamiliar with some of the holidays you wrote about that are celebrated. Some of these are completely different from what I observe.
I think that people have the habit of assuming that we all have the same public holidays and do not factor this in when they are making vacation plans.
Thank you for your post as this could definitely save a family from experiencing disaster on their anticipated trip to Greece!
Hi there Max and thanks for your point of view on this.
You know, in my opinion this can be viewed in two ways. From your point of view, you would see it as a disaster to come to a place during a Public Holiday. Why? Maybe because places are closed? Maybe you do not like crowds? Or maybe other reasons.
Others though, would find it a really great and different experience. I have seen many foreign people for example in Rhodes stumble across these festivals and have chosen to get involved. On account of this they have had a really nice time and enjoy an experience they would not otherwise have had during their holidays.
I guess it is all about what you like. Sometimes it is nice to experience and enjoy events that you would otherwise never have known about. That is why people come on holiday isn’t it? For something different?
Thanks again Max, I really appreciate your thoughts.
Your articles represent the passion you have for your new found country, and I have learned so much about Greece by reading them.
I also found a new island to live on, the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. We celebrate a number of public holidays throughout the year, and since we are a British Overseas Territory, we have a public holiday on the Queens birthday.
I hope I will get a chance to visit Greece in the near future. I always look forward to public holidays.
Hey Carol, great to meet you, and the Cayman Islands, how beautiful. I hope you are really happy there. I have never been, but would love to visit should the opportunity present itself to me.
I must admit, I always looked forward to the public holidays as well. I mean, most people do as it means they can have a day off work 🙂 I was the same to be honest, but now I work here on this site, so it is all pretty much the same to me 🙂
Public Holidays are very important though don’t you think? A lot of people overlook this fact. They get a day off work because there is a holiday, and a lot of people do not even know why!
This is not the case in Greece though. The Greeks really take their culture seriously and they celebrate these events in style. Even as I am talking to you now, there is a celebration taking place which marks The Assumption Of The Virgin Mary. A very serious celebration for The Greeks 🙂
Let’s hope you get the chance to visit Greece soon. I think you would really enjoy it!
Chris, I found the information in this article very interesting. I had no idea that they celebrated these holidays in Greece.
I think that it would be a very interesting and informative excursion to visit Greece during one of the festivals.
Are you planning to offer vacation packages that someone could purchase in order to experience the Greek culture? I think that could be very lucrative.
Hello there Pierre and thanks for contacting me.
Well, at the time of replying to you here, you will see that the 15th of August is only a couple of days away. I mention this as this is the day the Greek people celebrate The Assumption Of The Virgin Mary.
August is also the high season for the tourism, so there will be thousands of people here to share this festival as it takes place. So yes, you are right, being here to be part of it all is a wonderful opportunity.
As for vacation packages, yes – I am planning on making a deal in the future with some tour operators and making holiday packages available for people to book from here. I will also be offering a shopping area where people can find souvenirs, books and DVD’s.
Sometimes items are not always readily available outside of Greece, so in the future I will make this place a portal to get your hands on all things Greek 🙂
Thanks for your interest Pierre, and it is nice to meet you!
I have little knowledge of the Greek Holidays or of Greece for that matter! I was excited to learn about the various celebrations.
I found it interesting that Christianity was celebrated. I would have thought it would have been Catholicism.
The pictures were very inviting. Thank you for sharing. I have a glimpse which now intrigues me!
Hi there again Valerie.
Yes, a lot of the celebrations in Greece are based around religion, which here is Greek Orthodox.
When I first came to live here on the island of Rhodes, I too was unaware of a lot of the celebrations. I am happy to have taken the time to learn about them though, as they are very important to the Greek people, and while they all have a nice time, it is something that is very close to their hearts.
I feel (my opinion) that sometimes in western culture, the reasons for a celebration have long been forgotten. People can celebrate Christmas and Easter, and they understand that they receive a gift or a chocolate egg, but understand little else of why it is all so important.
The Greeks have never lost the important factor. I love that!
Thanks again Valerie!
What a great representation of the Greek Holidays! I have learned so much. The pictures are inviting as well.
In the US we often celebrate holidays of other cultures, such as St. Patrick’s Day. Can you tell me, does Greece celebrate other cultures as well?
Again, wonderful post.
Hi here Valerie and thanks for your question.
The Greeks have their own way of doing things for sure. On saying that, there is a large expat community that resides in Greece, so outside celebrations are welcome.
Aside from that, naturally Greece is a large tourist industry and it is in their own interest to accommodate festivities. Also here they have celebrations for St Patrick’s Day like you mention. Although not official, the Greek people will put on a spread to accommodate the holiday makers.
Their own celebrations is really when they come into their own though. Really great question.
That is a great informative post, and good to know about all these important dates in the Greek Calender, as it is really disappointing coming to a place and ‘everything’ is closed and you don’t know why!
Now I’ve got no excuses left! -)
Thank you for this Chris. The Greeks really do know how to celebrate!
Hey there again Orion, great to hear from you again once more.
In all honesty, this is something I love about the Greeks and the Greek way of life. Their ability to celebrate to the full is something really amazing. It is always kept simple, with tradition and culture but they always create the most amazing atmosphere.
When it comes to the celebrations though, I feel they can actually benefit people that are visiting the country. With the exception of banks, post offices and other such outlets, most things are open. This really allows people to come and enjoy the celebrations to the maximum 🙂
It is great that you comment on this now, as yesterday in the night I was on my way home and the road in my village was closed. I had to find an alternative route. No problem for me, but I was curious why the road was closed and it was clear some sort of celebration was taking place.
When I got home I asked my neighbor what the special occasion was, he said to me “eh, only God knows, they just feel like celebrating tonight” 🙂
You see, celebrations can occur also when you are least expecting them!
Thanks Orion! and great to see you again!
I have always wanted to visit Greece and it is at the top of my bucket list.
I never really thought to visit during a time of celebration or holiday for them. I think to go to Greece during Oxi Day would be so interesting.
The reason I would love to travel there is by far to learn about all the history that surrounds the country. It has so much to offer.
Thanks for the great information!
Hey there Leahrae, great to see you here again. You are becoming quite a regular visitor I see. Thank you.
Yes, the history is amazing and wherever you turn you will see something that will impress you. Even walking around the town with all the latest shopping outlets, the history jumps out at you with all the old structures and streets. It is a fabulous feeling and one you should make the most of.
The Celebrations and Festivities here are taken very seriously too, and you are welcome to take part as a tourist. The Greeks love nothing more than showing off their traditions, and they are really good at getting you involved.
Get of over here as soon as you can. You are going to love it.
Thanks again Leahrae, great to see you 🙂
What a great and informative post about the Greek holidays. It is clear that Greek people are proud of their heritage and traditional beliefs.
I notice you didn’t mention New Year (or maybe I have missed it). Is New Year also a public holiday in Greece and what is the celebrations like?
Hey Rika, thanks once again for your visit 🙂 Always great to see you.
The Greeks really do have a wonderful tradition yes, and it really is great to be a part of all the festivities when they happen.
I have touched on the New Year festivity at the end of the post, but what I wanted to do here was explain a little on the festivities which are more important to the Greeks 🙂
They do of course enjoy the New Year celebrations too, along with many other countries and in the same manner. However it is not considered as important for example as the Easter (Pascha) traditional festivities.
Thanks Rika, and hope to see you again soon!
Well, I have always, since childhood been fascinated with Greece.
I find it to be an incredible place full of culture and history like nowhere else. I would one day love to visit and stay at least a month to really get to see this beautiful part of the world.
It’s wonderful that they celebrate with pride and keep their history alive with festivity.
Hi Rina and thanks so much for your comment.
The Greek people really do know how to celebrate yes, but what i like the most, is ALL of them know WHY they are celebrating and what the festivities mean.
Of course a lot of people celebrate events such as Easter and Christmas all over the world, but if you ask for example a young person, lets say 10 years of age in the UK – What does Easter mean to you? – They will most probably answer – A Chocolate Egg, and that is normally as far as it goes.
In Greece though, the festivities mean something to them and they are educated as to what it all stands for and the history behind it. This is the reason the celebrations take place with such passion!
Thanks for your thoughts Rina 🙂
Lots of interesting information on this page.
I really didn’t know anything about traditions in Greece so it is always fun to learn something new!
I like the fact that at Christmas everything is more low key than say in the United States or Canada. Spending time with your family and just being together is the most important part of the holiday so its great to know that still goes on there and that stores are closed.
Hey there thanks so much for sharing your opinion.
I guess most of us love Christmas in general. i remember when I was growing up in the United Kingdom, Christmas was a really big deal.
Lots of money was always put into it in the way of gifts and food and it was a great time.
When I came to live in Rhodes though, I was surprised to see just how low key it is. I will be honest, I was a little disappointed. But as the years have passed and I have learned the way of life here, I not only accept it now, but I respect it!
The Greek people celebrate Christmas for sure, and if you go to Athens for example you can see it clearly. In Rhodes though, families just all come together, and you do not see anyone for days 🙂
It was the same for my first New Year celebration here too. On the Eve of New Year when I first settled here, I literally was wandering the streets looking for a bar to drink a beer – with no luck!
Finally I took a beer from the supermarket, went home and celebrated it with a DVD 🙂
But hey, I am happy 🙂
I really enjoyed the Public Holidays of Greece..
Each countries history is fascinating what built a country and its people with it. Mussolini demanded his army be allowed into Greece at the start of the second world war. Then he is denied. Great piece of resistance and belief in the people of Greece.
Pascha â€“ Easter and the Christian beliefs in Greece and the significance in the History and day to day life.
Wonderful. Time for Greece….
Hi Robert and thanks so much for letting me know your thoughts.
I agree each country has been given its unique characteristics with the history they have experienced. No place in the world would be as it is today without things happening in its past to shape it.
The Greeks certainly take pride in their history and the annual Oxi Day celebration which denied Mussolini is a perfect example of this.
I am really happy you like the information here, and there is a lot more coming before I can call this website complete (I do not think it ever will be) so please come back for more when you can!
Thanks once again Robert. I am grateful for your input!
I love Greece and all the history that comes with it ever since taking ancient Greek and Classic History & Arts in Middle School.
Unfortunately (and perhaps weirdly) I have never visited any place in Greece other than Cyprus. It would be great to plan my trip to Rhodes around a specific festivity.
Which one would you recommend?
Hey Linda thanks so much for passing and leaving your comment.
I think after the education you received at Middle School, visiting Greece would be a real treat for you. Seeing all the things you have learned right before your eyes will be very rewarding and something you will never forget.
I also spent some time in Cyprus many years ago as I was stationed out there with the Military. I was working at Troodos for 2 years and loved it.
Rhodes is a little different though, and definitely worth a visit 🙂
Thanks again Linda!
Itâ€™s lovely to get to know about some of the various celebrations and events practiced in Greece. I’ve heard about Athens and Greek Gods, but your content brought new knowledge to me.
Looking at the astonishing achievements the ancestors have gifted to the world in the areas of philosophy, literature, politics, arts and science, Iâ€™m sure the Greeks are very content about their proud history. I will surely add Greece to my â€œPlaces to visit before I dieâ€ list 🙂
Thanks for sharing.
Hey there thanks so much for your kind words and thoughts on my site here 🙂 It means a lot to me.
There is so much in the way of Greek Culture that some of it is not generally know, or often overlooked. The island of Rhodes is indeed a beautiful place and if you can ever visit you would love it.
Athens is also an amazing place I have to say although it is a lot more cosmopolitan.
The Greeks have indeed played a big part when it comes to the areas you mention such as literature, arts and philosophy and you are quite right, the Greek people are very proud of what they stand for.
i hope you can arrange a visit soon, and if you want any more information just let me know!
I have visited Greece just once and really loved visiting such a cultural and diverse country. The mainland is so different to the islands and each of the islands themselves are very unique.
Ochi Day is very interesting from a historical point of view. Brand new information for me.
The Greek people do seem to possess and incredible national pride. Something I observed during the 2004 World Cup soccer, when I was watching Greece play on television with the locals.
Hey Keith, it is great to know you have managed to visit this wonderful and cultural country. Where were you staying, on the mainland or on one of the islands?
Yes, the islands alone have their very own feel to them and just because you visit one, does not mean all the rest of them are the same. Far from it.
The pride the Greeks have is what makes me love it here as much as I do. They take great pride in their country from historical celebrations to the culture of today! They have a lot of respect for each other and what they stand for.
When you mention the World Cup this is a fine example of the country standing as one, and the atmosphere that day was something I will never forget!