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 which 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!
Public Holidays in Greece: Οχι Day | Ochi Day
This day holds great significance in Greece and the Greek people celebrate it annually on the 28th of October.
The word Οχι/Ochi means ‘NO’ in Greek, and the Greek people precisely declared this when Mussolini demanded entry for his army into Greece at the start of the Second World War.
At the time, Ioánnis Metaxás, who served as the Greek Prime Minister, responded with a defiant ‘NO,’ which carried significant importance during that period.
In fact, it mapped out the way for Greece to stay neutral for may years to come through conflicts.
After the Italians attempted to occupy Greece with an invasion, they ultimately had to retreat to Albania.
Now, celebrations unfold across the country, including Rhodes, where you can witness a grand parade featuring military vehicles, soldiers, and other forces like 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.
People celebrate this day to honor the physical ascension of The Virgin Mary into heaven, a belief central to the faith.
Similarly, Christians hold the conviction that at the end of their earthly life, they too will be taken up and welcomed into heaven, fulfilling Jesus’ promise.
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.
In Greece, people celebrate Christmas like in most other Christian countries, yet it tends to be more low-key and not as commercial as you might be used to. Certainly this is the case in Rhodes.
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 big social occasion!
They save their real celebration for Easter, which I will talk about next!
Public Holidays in Greece: Pascha | Easter
This is one of the most important celebrations in Greece.
In Greek, it’s called ‘Pascha,’ and like in other countries, it varies in date each year.
Of course, these annual dates aren’t random; instead, they are determined using the following calculations.
- 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
Many would agree that Pascha, one of the most significant events in Christian history, holds immense importance.
Greek people celebrate it by gathering in the streets on Saturday evening to follow an icon of Jesus, mourning his death.
After completing a church ritual involving the removal of the cross and its placement into a casket, the congregation escorts the icon back to the church.
Each person holds a candle, ready to light it with the Jerusalem flame at midnight.
This is when the priest announces the resurrection.
The next morning, the Sunday, comes the time for family and a feast. They serve Traditional Greek Food, and they truly 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, people paint normal eggs red, symbolizing 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 observe that the Greece takes Easter Celebrations very seriously.
See The Video For A Full Insight Into The Greek Easter Time
Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Christ, also referred to as the ‘Blessing Of The Waters’.
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 person who finds and retrieves the cross from the water is believed to receive blessings of luck for the entire upcoming year.
Public Holidays in Greece: Overall
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 participate in the event?
I would love to hear from you.
Leave me your thoughts in the comments area below and I will get back to you.