Festivals in Athens
Athens has a full calendar of festivals throughout the year. Here you will find information and a description of the events, with links to their websites where available...
Athens hosts many annual events throughout the year, most of which are religious.
Carnival and Religious Festivals
The Festival of Epiphany
Epiphany (?????????) is celebrated on 6 January, the 12th day after Christmas and the end of the celebration period. The Greek Orthodox community celebrates the Blessing of the Waters. In Piraeus, and many other seaside locations across Greece and even abroad, an orthodox priest blesses the water by throwing a cross on the sea. Young men jump into the water to try and retrieve it and the one who returns it to the priest receives a special blessing for himself and his family. This takes place after the divine liturgy.
The festival is also known as the Feast of Theophany (????????? meaning " God shining forth" or " God revealing himself to mankind through Jesus") or the Feast of Light (????). It’s Agia Theofana’s Saint’s Day.
According to old Greek folk traditions, Epiphany is the end of the Kallikantzaros (??????????????) period. Kallikantzaros are evil, goblin-like creatures who live underground and come out to torment Christians during the festive season.
The festivities take place over three days, starting on 5 January, when children go from house to house singing epiphany songs, and ends on 7 January, with the great feast of St-John the Baptist and name-day of Ioanna (Joan) and Ioannis (John).
This national and religious holiday is the anniversary of the beginning of the Greek revolution (Elliniki Epanastasià) against the Ottoman Empire. On 25 March 1821, the national uprising was declared at the Agia Lavra monastery in the Peloponnese by archbishop Germanos of Patras.
Every year to mark the occasion, a military parade is held in Athens and a school parade takes place in Athens the day before. Some children wear traditional Greek costume and carry Greek flags. In other cities, the school parades take place on 25 March.
On the same day the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation, when Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the son of God. It's also the name day of Vangelis and Eva (Evangelia).
The traditional dish of the day is fried cod (bakaliaros) with garlic purée (skordalia).
Apokries, or Carnival, is the three week celebration before Sarakosti when the 40 day fasting period starts (the season of Lent). Plays, street parties and other festive events are organised all around the city, and costumed Athenians gather in Plaka. A parade takes place in Moschato. Costumes, masks, confetti and other festive items can be found in specialised shops throughout the city.
Apokries literally means "saying goodbye to meat". Tsiknopempti or Smoke Thursday, celebrated ten days before the fasting begins, is the last opportunity to eat a large quantity of meat before Easter. Large portions of meat are grilled at home or eaten out at tavernas; the whole city smells of charred meat.
Clean Monday (?????? ???????), also known as Ash Monday, is a public holiday in Greece. It's the last day of Carnival and signifies the start of the fasting period. Octopus, shrimps, olives, taramasalata and halvah are the traditional foods this day. The Athenian sky is filled with kites as it's a very popular tradition to fly kites this day. Athenians often fly them either near the Acropolis, on Philopappou Hill and Areopagos Hill, or on one of Athens' many beaches.
During the 40 days leading up to Easter, no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products or oil should be eaten. Nowadays, many Greeks do not fast at all, while some limit their fast to not eating meat.
Pentecost and Agios Pnevmatos
Pentecost comes from the Greek word Pentekoste, and means fiftieth. It's celebrated on the 50th day after the Greek Orthodox Easter (Pascha) and ten days after the ascension of Christ (Analipsi). It's celebrated on a Sunday and is followed on Monday by the celebration of Agios Pnevmatos or the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. It's a long weekend and many Athenians use this occasion to travel to the villages and islands.
The majority of Greek Orthodox Churches are named after a Saint and the religious icon (eikona) of this Saint is displayed in the church. Every Saint is celebrated on a particular calendar day, the Saint's Day. On that day, a special church service takes place and the icon is taken in procession around the neighbourhood. It's also the occasion for a fair as small market stalls with sweets, toys and clothes are set up around the church and even on the surrounding streets. These celebrations can last for a few days in bigger churches.
Spring and Summer Festivals in Athens
The Feast of the Flowers
On 1 May (Protomayia) Greeks celebrate the beginning of spring with the Feast of the Flowers. The roots of this celebration stem back to Ancient times, to the festivals of the goddess Demeter (Dimitra). It's also a national holiday, and tradition has it that families drive out to the countryside or spend their day in a park picnicing and picking flowers. Wreathes are made with these flowers, which hang on doors or balconies until 29 August, when the Feast of St-John is celebrated and the wreaths are burned in a bonfire.
1 May is also international workers' day, and demonstrations take place on Syntagma square outside the parliament.
European Music Day
European Music Day, a French initiative, is the biggest annual music event in Greece. It takes place over three days around 21 June. Music stages are set up all around the city, as well as in Technopolis, in Gazi, for free concerts. Many Greek artists travel abroad to play in similar concerts, while Greek and foreign artists/bands from a variety of music genres give performances in Greece. The Ministry of Culture and the Municipality help with the organisation of this event and locals, individuals, students from music schools and youth organisations can participate.
Athens and Epidaurus Festival
The annual Epidaurus festival takes place from June to August in Athens and is one of the most important cultural festivals in the country, with Greek classic theatre performances, Greek drama, music concerts, contemporary dance events, lectures and more.
The festival is held at several locations in and around Athens, including at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the two ancient theatres at Epidaurus, the Lycabettus Theatre, the Benaki Museum and others.
- For further information: Click here
This cultural event is organised by the Municipality of Elefsina, Attica near Athens. The Festival is a tribute to the Greek poet and drama writer Aeschylus. It takes place annually in summer or early autumn and includes concerts, exhibitions, theatre and dance performances.
- Aeschylia Festival website (in Greek)
European Jazz Festival
The European Jazz Festival is held annually at the Technopolis in Gazi. European musicians from all jazz forms and many famous artists participate in this event. Entrance is free. The Embassies of the participating countries support and contribute to the festival.
- For further information from the City of Athens website: Click here
Rockwave is the biggest pop rock event of the summer in Athens. Every summer, this festival takes place near Athens at the Terra Vibe Park in Malakasa, with a line up of well known international bands and musicians.
A book festival of (mostly) Greek-language books takes place every September in Athens. The venue for the event may vary from year to year. Every publisher has a little stand, from which they sell a selection of their published books. The festival is organised by the Book Publishers Association (?.??.?), in collaboration with the Cultural Organisation of the City of Athens and the Athens Book Publishers Association (?.?.?.?).
Celebrated on 28 October, to commemorate the strong reply 'oxi' (no) of general Ioannis Metaxas to Mussolini's request for Italian troops to enter Greece at the beginning of the second World War.
Public schools organise a parade similar to the one held annually on 24 March.