If you are in Greece in the beginning of a new month, you will hear the phrase “καλό μήνα” (kalo mina) a lot, which literally means “good month”. It is a local custom to greet just about every single person you meet with this phrase and it is a nice way to wish them well.
August, in particular, is a special month for all Greeks, as it is the hottest month of the year in which locals usually head to the islands for their annual holiday. It is also the month of some of the biggest and most important Greek Orthodox celebrations (known as "panagyri") which are cherished by all Greeks no matter their age.
The biggest celebration takes place on the 15th of August. This day is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and thousands of pilgrims come together at the numerous shrines dedicated to “her grace”. At night, big fests take place in the villages with splendid amounts of delicious local food and wine, traditional live music and heady dances in which literally everyone is welcome to participate. The fact that they are attended by all ages from toddlers to their great grandparents creates an amazing and festive atmosphere.
Although the celebration takes place in almost every village in Greece, there are few islands that are particularly famous for them. See a selection of our favorite ones below:
Ikaria is widely regarded as the island with the best and most crazy "panagyria" in Greece. It might be best described as an all-night rave party only with traditional music and over 1,000 people all dancing in a giant circle. One of the island’s biggest "panagyri" is held in the village of Lagada, where grilled and stewed goat is served with plenty of raki.
Naxos is famous for its lively celebrations with traditional music that is played on the violin, lute and bagpipe. Many locals dress up in traditional costumes and dance until the morning hours. A particular popular fest takes place in the village of Filoti.
A huge table is set for all attendees in front of Koimiseos church in Folegandros. The atmosphere at this fest is truly unique giving a feeling that everyone belongs to one big family. A local band plays traditional instruments such as the lute, fiddle and tsambouna (a type of bagpipe) and dances last until the morning hours.
In Amorgos, the biggest "panagyri" takes place in Aigiali near the church of Panagia Eptachoriani and lasts for two days. On August 14th an evening mass is held and dishes without meat or dairy products are offered. On the following day, tables are set up outside the church and traditional food consisting of braised meat with potatoes and vinegar is served together with locally produced rakomelo (a mix of raki with honey). After the food, a true party is celebrated in the village square with local musicians playing and the whole community dancing until the morning.
In Kea (also known as Tzia), a big festival is held in the yard of the monastery Panagia Kastriani. The fest is very popular for its delicious traditional food that consists of braised meat with potatoes, paspalas (pork cooked with tomatoes and egg), loza (a type of sausage) and local cheeses and is served with local sweet wine.
Celebrations on Serifos last three whole days. Young couples are eager to open the first dance around the olive tree by the church as it is commonly believed that this couple will be married within a year. The most famous fests are held in the village of Ramos near the area of Livadi and Skopous.