The Cretans love to celebrate and there is almost
always a feast somewhere. Often it is related to the feast day of
one of the saints, a wedding or baptism and it is always an occasion
for eating, drinking and having a good time. By far the
most important Cretan and Greek feast is Easter.
Everybody tries to come back to their island to celebrate Easter
with their family.
After a fasting period of 49 days, the Easter celebrations start with a midnight mass on Saturday night to commemorate the resurrection of Christ. Everyone lights a candle and calls "Christos anesti" (Christ is resurrected) and a large bonfire is lit on every village square (or in front of the church) and the effigy of Judas is burnt. Afterwards, people return to their house to eat and break their fast.
The dates for Orthodox Easter follow the use of the Julian calender and the dates may vary from the other Christian Easter dates.
Epiphany 6th January in remembrance of the baptism of Christ.
Carnival marks the beginning of the fasting period prior to Easter. There are carnival processions in some towns. The best known are in Rethymnon, Souda and Kalyves.
Annunciation 25th March. It is also a feast in remembrance of the revolt of 1821 against the Turks
Feast of St. George 23rd April. Saint George is one of the most important saints in the orthodox religion, the patron saint of shepherds and peasants but also the military
May Day 1st of May. Spring festival where people drive out in the countryside, pick flowers and make wreaths to hang over their house doors. Many Cretans take their first swim of the year in the sea on this day (but this is a modern phenomenon).
21st May Around this date several ceremonies take place in the province of Chania to commemorate the invasion of Crete by the Germans in 1941 and the Cretan resistance.
Feast of Saint John the Baptist 24th June. Birthday of Saint John the Baptist as well as summer solstice.
Name day of the Prophet Elias 20th July Many chapels built on peaks and hills are dedicated to the prophet Elias. He is also seen as the christian incarnation of the sun god Helios (note the similarities in names).
Assumption Feast of the Panagia 15th August. It is the most important feast of the year after Easter and an occasion for big celebrations. Many villages will have all night music and dancing.
Oxi Day Greek national day 28th October. Commemorates the "No" (Oxi) of the Greek government to the capitulation ultimatum of Mussolini in 1940. An occasion for military and school parades.
17th November Rememberance of the bloody suppression of a student uprising at the Polytechnique University of Athens by the military junta in 1973. It is also seen as the beginning of the end for the fascist regime in Greece.
Saint Nicholas 6th December. An important day in Greece as Saint Nicholas is the patron of sailors and seamen.
Christmas is far less significant in Greece than Easter but the commercial aspects of Christmas are becoming more and more visible every year.
New year is a small family celebration but nowadays people also go out at midnight to light fireworks or, in regions such as Sfakia, to celebrate the new year with gun fire.