Greeks love a good festival! Which is lucky because there’s a reason to celebrate almost every day. Most Greeks have the equivalent of two birthdays: one marking the day they were born, and the other held on their name day – the official saint’s day of the saint they’re named after. In addition, individual islands and villages hold their own celebrations. And then there are the main feast days in the Greek Orthodox calendar.
If you’d like to experience a traditional Greek festival, here are the dates for the main festivals in Tilos along with a summary of each occasion.
Easter is the most important festival in the Greek Orthodox calendar. Celebrations begin seven weeks before Easter Sunday and reach their peak during Holy Week, when services are held every evening.
Preparations begin in earnest on Maundy Thursday with the baking of Easter bread and the dyeing of eggs red, symbolising the blood of Christ. Good Friday is a day of mourning and solemn processions, before preparations for the main Easter feast start on Saturday morning.
The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated at midnight after a long church service. Shortly before midnight the lights are extinguished, leaving only the Eternal Flame burning in the altar. At midnight, the priest proclaims Christos Anesti (Christ is risen) and lights the candle of the closest person with the Eternal Flame. This is passed from person to person until everybody’s candles are lit. Then church bells ring loudly and fireworks and firecrackers are set off in celebration. It’s one loud night! Easter Sunday is the main feast day, with the centrepiece an entire lamb or goat cooked on a spit.
Greek Easter is a wonderful celebration to experience. Check your dates carefully when planning your trip though, because Greek Orthodox Easter usually falls at a different time to that celebrated by Western Christian churches.
St. George’s Day
Traditionally Christians celebrate St. George’s Day on 23 April, but the Greek Orthodox Church sometimes follows a different tradition. If 23 April falls on Easter Sunday or at any point during Holy Week, St. George’s Day celebrations take place on the first Monday after Greek Orthodox Easter, making this a moveable feast. In Tilos, feasts and festivities are held at small churches around the island. Being spring, it’s a wonderful time of year to visit Tilos.
St. Pandeleimon’s Day (Ayios Pandeleimonas), 25–27 July
Ayios Pandeleimon is the patron saint of Tilos, so it’s unsurprising that this is the biggest festival celebrated on the island. Tilians return from across Greece, and further afield, to join locals at the Monastery of St. Pandeleimon for three days of festivities.
Feast on Greek food with plenty of wine, and enjoy local folk music accompanied by traditional Greek dancing. The biggest celebrations take place on the evening of 26 July, the night before the main saint’s day.
The Dance of the Grail, 28 July
The Dance of the Grail, also known as the Koupa Festival, takes place in the courtyard of Archangel Michael (Ayios Taxiarchis), which is the main square in Megalo Horio. It’s held annually the day after St Pandeleimon’s Day.
Dancers perform a local folk dance, where the person leading holds a cup in his free hand. If somebody else wishes to lead the dance, they must put money in the cup before taking over. Naturally, there’s plenty of food and drink to get people in the mood!
Assumption Day, 15 August
Assumption Day is one of the biggest dates in the Greek Orthodox calendar, after Easter and Christmas. Also known as the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, it isn’t about mourning at the Virgin Mary’s passing but celebration at her reunion with her beloved son. This symbolises the return of people to their native land.
August 15 is a public holiday across Greece and each place has its own celebrations. On Tilos, celebrations take place in the deserted village of Mikro Horio, beginning on the evening of 14 August.
Virgin Mary Nine Days, 23 August
In the Greek Orthodox calendar, all the great feasts are extended for a number of days, which differs according to the feast. This period of celebration is known as an afterfeast, and the last day of the afterfeast is the Apodosis – the leave-taking or giving back of the feast.
For the Assumption this happens nine days later, and on Tilos it’s celebrated at two locations: Panagia Kamariani in Megalo Horio and Panagia Politissa in Livadia. Both celebrate in typical Greek style with food, wine, music and dancing.
Holy Belt Day, 31 August
The Holy Belt of the Theotokos is the only surviving relic of the Virgin Mary. According to legend, the Apostle Thomas missed her funeral but witnessed her ascension, when she gave him her holy belt. The only surviving piece is kept in the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos. This is celebrated with a feast day on 31 August.
In Tilos, celebrations take place at the church of Timia Zoni (the Holy Belt) in Mikro Horio, when the abandoned village comes back to life for a day.
Experience Greek Festivals in Tilos with Nissia Holidays
This is an overview of the main festivals in Tilos during the tourist season. In addition, there are saints days held throughout the year, so there’s always likely to be something going on. To find out more, contact Nissia Holidays.
To find out more about the island, see our Ultimate Guide to Tilos.
For more information or to book your holiday in Tilos, contact Nissia Holidays on 01455 289421 or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.