The biggest island fetes in Greece
The biggest event of the summer is always the local “panigiri”, or island fete
In recent years, panigiria have come back with a vengeance. Based around the celebration of a local church or patron saint, people get together, dance and have a good time. A Magic Cabinet has picked the ones not to miss this summer. We could not have done this without the invaluable guidance of George Pittas, author of “ Panigiria in the Aegean”.
July 17th, Agia Marina Panigiri in Ikaria
Saint Marina is celebrated in style in Ikaria, as it coincides with the anniversary of the Ikarian revolution of 1912. The celebrations go into the small hours in places like Agios Kirikos, Katafygi and Arethousa.
July 19th, Profitis Elias Panigiri in Sifnos
The celebration of Prophet Elias is a big deal in Sifnos as there many monasteries named after him. Our favourite is the fete at the monastery of Profitis Elias Apsilos, on the island’s highest peak (691m). There is a long table laid out, that seats 50 people at a time, where you can enjoy local delicacies like chickpea stew (revithada), goat with pasta, tomato sauce and grated cheese and of course, loads of wine.
July 20th, Profitis Elias Panigiri in Fira, Santorini
If you ever find yourself in Santorini on July 20th, this one is not to be missed. The monastery is on the island’s highest point, so the views are incredible.
July 22nd, Agia Markella Panigiri in Amani, Chios
This is one of Chios’s best known events, with strong connections to religion and tradition as Saint Markella is the island’s patron saint. She suffered at the hands of her own father, so according to local legend, the sea takes on a deeper colour on the anniversary of her death. Locals also decorate churches around the island with waxed thread.
July 27th, Agios Panteleimonas Panigiri in Othos, Karpathos
The celebrations begin the day before Saint Panteleimonas’s day. Local musicians go around every village playing the lute and lyra. Their resilience when it comes to alcohol is worth a mention too as the local tradition is that they have to finish whatever is in their cup (koupa), before the end of each song.
End of July, The Koupa Dance in Megalo Chorio, Tilos
This unique fete takes place at the end of July at Megalo Chorio on the island of Tilos in the Dodecanese. The koupa dance involves the first dancer holding the koupa (cup) and filling it with money until the end of the dance or until their cash runs out. It then gets passed on to the following dancer and the money collected is donated to charity.
14th to the 16th of August, panigiri of Panagia Portaetissa, Astypalaia
The celebrations last for three days and the food and wine are plentiful. You will be blindfolded and then asked to feed yoghurt to the person next to you. You will then walk along a greased pole in order to reach a fake rooster tied at the end of it…
August 15th, Virgin Mary’s panigiri in Filoti, Naxos
The 15th of August is a major date in the Greek Orthodox calendar and one of the most special panigiria takes place in the village of Filoti in Naxos. Visitors love the island dances, the traditional outfits and the sounds of the violin, lute and the tsabouna.
August 17th, Karavolas celebration in Lefkes, Paros
This is the most important panigiri in Paros, which takes place on the first Saturday after August 15th. It’s named after the big snails which are served fried or in red sauce, with skordalia on the side. Other delicacies include local cheeses, chickpeas, meat and of course plenty of wine. The party takes place in a big, open space and includes island dances like balos, syrtos and ikariotikos.
August 29th, St John panigiri in Iraklia
Iraklia is a small island, south of Naxos, with a population of 150. The panigiri takes place in a cave with stalactites and stalagmites, which you can only enter on your hands and knees. Getting to the cave requires a two-hour walk but the view more than makes up for it. At the end of the path there is a cave with a big entrance, called the Cyclops cave, as that’s where he lived according to local legend. On the day of the ceremony, children light candles around the stalagmites, bringing to life their many colours. The day ends with a big party, which lasts until the early hours, attended by inhabitants of the nearby islands.