Traditional Festivals of Greece: Panagiri

The traditional festivals of Greece are defined by traditional song, dance and food. At this open-air community party, everyone is invited to take part and enjoy.

The Panagiri: Traditional Festivals of Greece

One of the most unique Greek cultural events to immerse yourself in is the panagiri.  This is a celebration that dates to ancient times. It has evolved into a devotional party to a Greek Orthodox saint, a celebration that brings together community in the name of Greek tradition.

The Modern Day Panagiri

Every Greek Orthodox saint has a “name day.” It is a specific day of the year that is devoted to a saint such as Paul, Peter, John or Mary.  On that day, Greeks with the same name as the saint celebrate their name day too. It is treated in the same way a birthday is celebrated among friends and family – a joyful and happy event.

If you happen to be in a village when that village’s church is celebrating its name day, you’ll find yourself in the heart of a party you won’t soon forget.

Besides prayers and traditions, the panagiri brings about a cheerful atmosphere.  Local musicians sit out strumming their guitars, playing the bouzoukia or clarinet. There is always a singer who is belting out folk songs with passion.  Dancing is a focal point as strangers and friends alike link arms to the beat of the music. The festivals of Greece are full of joy and life.

It doesn’t end there. Among the children playing and running around, there will be a place to line up for food.  Traditional specialties of the region including local wine are offered to guests, typically for free.  The food may be spit roasted lamb, grilled fish, local savory dips, fresh olives, homemade bread and more.  The making of the food itself is a community effort consisting of homemade dishes. Of course, there is always local wine with lots of toasting.

Ancient Greek Roots of the Panagiri

The key to a successful panagiri is good music, good food, local wine and local customs such as dancing.  These were also the keys to successful ancient Greek festivals. Back then, those were major religious events that were held regularly. While a modern day panagiri is centered around a saint, ancient Greek festivals were held to maintain a good relationship with the gods.

Festivals, including the ones that took place in Athens, were full of meaning and merriment. For example, the Dionysia festival was the festival of drama in honor of the god Dionysus and Thargelia was a festival in honor of the god Apollo and the new harvest. The ancient Greek festival known as Thesmophoria was held in the name of the goddess Demeter and was celebrated by women.

Traditional Festivals of Greece: An Evolution

The traditional festivals of Greece are a beautiful blend of the religious and social. They are one of the special cultural events in the world where ties remain from an ancient storied past. They are events that have evolved, picking up influences throughout the centuries including Christianity while taking in the modern touches of gastronomy.

The traditional festivals of Greece are travel experiences that connect the past to present and they welcome everyone. The panagiri is where the young and old, foreigner and Greek come to drink, talk, laugh, dine and be.

Traditional Festivals of Greece: Your Greek Holiday

At Fly Me to the Moon, we can plan a fantastic Greek holiday itinerary that puts you in the core of immersive cultural events such as the traditional festivals of Greece.

Have you ever attended a traditional festival during your travels?