Panagia - Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is one of the largest holidays in the Orthodox Church and a national holiday in Greece. It is celebrated with special joy and is also referred to as the “Summer Easter.” If you happen to be on vacation during this time, expect bustling crowds, as it’s a significant period for the local population during the tourist season.
In towns, villages, islands, monasteries, and chapels, numerous customs take place. Each place has its own story about the icon of Panagia (Virgin Mary) that is kept in the local church and is considered the protector of the area. There are hundreds of nicknames attributed to the icon of the Virgin Mary, depending on how the icon is painted, its age, the way it was found, etc. Some of these names include Panagia Pantanasa, Kremasti, Epanohorijani, Spilijani, Gremiotisa, Glikofilousa, Kosmosoteira, Hozoviotisa, Eikosifonisa, and more. Almost every household also celebrates the name day of a family member: Maria, Despoina, Marios, Panagiotis, Panagiota, and others. This is an opportunity for religious rituals, as well as a true Greek feast, with dancing, singing, food, and wine.
Wherever you are on August 15th, you’re likely to find a church dedicated to Panagia (Virgin Mary) nearby. Ask the locals (your accommodation hosts) about the festivities’ schedule and join or simply witness the events. This is a great way to experience a slightly different side of Greece.

Where and How to Experience the Celebrations of Panagia - Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Greece

Halkidiki - Assumption of the Virgin Mary

In every part of Halkidiki where there’s a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the holiday is celebrated with traditional feasts and processions.

Sitonia - Panagia Celebration

In the church of Sarti, you’ll find the icon of Panagia Milosrdna (Panagia Elevsa), brought from Asia Minor. This icon is revered by the residents of this part of Sitonia on the big holiday on August 15th. On the eve of the holiday (August 14th), the epitaph (decorated icon) is carried out, and believers led by priests take a procession through the streets of Sarti, carrying the adorned epitaph with flowers. The next morning, a liturgy is held.
In the village of Agios Nikolaos in Sitonia, live music is organized in the square on August 15th. Due to the usual large crowds, if you want to enjoy a meal at a restaurant, it’s advisable to make a reservation in advance.

Kassandra - Panagia Celebration

The chapel of Panagia Faneromeni in Nea Skioni is located 2 kilometers east of the village, in the place of ancient Skioni. Built right by the sea, it features beautiful frescoes from the 16th century AD. The Panagia Faneromeni holiday in Nea Skioni is celebrated on August 23rd. The church houses an icon of the Virgin Mary painted on a standing marble statue. Local tradition says the image weeps before something unfortunate happens in the country. On the eve of the holiday (August 23rd), a procession is held from Nea Skioni to this small church.
Churches with icons of the Virgin Mary also exist in Paliuri and Kriopigi, where you can participate in processions on the eve of the holiday and attend the liturgy on the morning of August 15th.

Athos - Panagia Celebration

When it comes to Mount Athos, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is most prominently celebrated in the mountain village of Megali Panagia. This village is the second most populous on Athos, after Jerisos. On the eve of the holiday (night of August 14th to 15th), a service is held throughout the night, and the following day, a kurban (food for all visitors) is prepared. The village hosts music, a market, and other festivities. It’s an authentic and unique experience, as the village is traditional and surrounded by dense forest.
Nea Rodha on Athos celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary for nine days on August 23rd, with a procession and a Divine Liturgy.

Tasos - Panagia Celebration

On the island of Tasos, Panagia is celebrated in multiple places. In the villages of Marijes and Potos, there are processions and liturgies. In Marijes village, live music can be enjoyed a few days before the holiday and on the day of the holiday itself. The grandest celebration on the island takes place in a village named Panagia. On the eve of the holiday (August 14th), the epitaph is carried out, followed by a procession through the village. The next morning, after the liturgy in the village church dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, a feast is held in the churchyard, where food prepared by the village women is served. Alongside the food, visitors are treated to wine and there’s also music, dancing, and a general celebration.

Unusual Event on Kefalonia during the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

On Kefalonia, every August 15th, small snakes appear in the dome of a church near the village of Markopoulo. According to legend, these snakes are the former nuns of an old monastery nearby. Fearing pirates, they prayed to the Virgin Mary to transform them into snakes. During the evening service, the snakes move freely among the faithful, around the sanctuaries, and on the benches, showing no fear and not harming anyone. After August 15th, the snakes disappear. Additionally, in Panagia Gravaliotisi, in the village of Pastra, lilies placed on her icon bloom twice a year. Thanks to these “miracles,” these two villages attract a large number of people during the Panagia holiday.

Velika Gospojina is a national holiday, and except for restaurants, shops, shopping centers, banks, and post offices are closed. See more about non-working days here.

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