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National Holidays - Bank Holidays
in Greece 2017

New Year’s Day is on Sunday, 01 January 2017

Epiphany is on Friday, 06 January 2017

Clean Monday is on Monday, 27 February 2017

Independence Day Greece is on Saturday, 25 March 2017

Orthodox Good Friday is on Friday, 14 April 2017

Orthodox Easter Sunday is on Sunday, 16 April 2017

Orthodox Easter Monday is on Monday, 17 April 2017

Labour Day is on Monday, 01 May 2017

Holy Spirit Monday is on Monday, 05 June 2017

Assumption of the Virgin Mary is on Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Ochi Day is on Saturday, 28 October 2017

Christmas Day is on Monday, 25 December 2017

Boxing Day is on Tuesday, 26 December 2017

On January 1st, the Greeks celebrate one of the most beloved saints of the Church, Saint Basil the Great (Agios Vasilios). Traditionally he brings the Christmas presents during the night. On New Year’s Day people say “kali chrónia“ to each other (literally "Good Years“)  meaning: have a good year. 

6th January – Theophany (I’ll leave you to research what you want to say about blessing waters, cross, etc)

In Greece, after 4 weeks of ‘Apokries’ carnival, the 40 day Lenten fast starts with “Kathara Deftera“ – “Clean Monday“ is a bank holiday. Greek people gather around the table and enjoy Greek Lenten meals with no meat, fish or dairy, (for example the traditional bean soup) and fly kites.

The Greek Independence day is on March 25th. The day celebrates the winning of the Greek War of Independence against the Turkish Ottoman regime from 1821 to 1830. At the same time the day is a religious feast – 9 months before Christmas the Orthodox celebrate the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. 

Greek Orthodox Easter: The most important holiday in Greece. (Usually not the same dates at Western Easter)

Holy Thursday is a day of baking and the dyeing of dozens of boiled eggs bright red to symbolize the blood of Christ and the renewal of life. Young children delight in joining their mothers and grandmothers in the preparation of making the “Koulourakia”, the special Easter biscuits and there is always the lingering aroma of newly baked “Tsoureki”, the sweet bread that is actually eaten all year round. Holy Thursday is the saddest day of the Easter celebrations as it marks the day of Christ’s crucifixion. People visit their churches to light candles and to sit and say a private prayer. It’s a day of mourning and church services are held throughout the country in the evenings. Many of the Greek people can be seen shedding a tear and some will keep a constant vigil next to the cross bearing a figure of Christ in the church.

On Holy Friday, church bells toll all over the country and are a poignant reminder of Christ’s crucifixion. Flags fly at half mast and a great sadness is felt in communities. During this period of mourning, afternoon church services are held and after a re-enactment of the crucifixion, the figure of Christ is removed from the cross and placed in a bier decorated by women and children with flowers. In the evening, the ‘epitafios’ representing Christ’s bier is carried through the neighbourhood in a somber funeral procession and the silent congregation follow behind showing their grief and their mourning for Christ. When the bier has returned to the church, members of the congregation can take a flower away with them.

Holy Saturday Late in the evening, crowds of people arrive at every church in the country, leaving no room inside for many of the congregation. Hundreds of people follow the service outside from the large microphones. Shortly before midnight, lights in the church go out and bells start to toll to announce Christ’s resurrection. Loud fireworks go off leaving spirals of smoke and the priest appears to share the eternal flame from his own candle among the congregation nearest to him, who then share to the people around, saying “Christos Anesti”, Christ has risen, the crowds shout amongst themselves. The Eternal flame is then carefully carried home by everyone to mark a black cross with the smoke over the door.  This tradition is believed to bless the home and bring it good luck. After that, it is time for the Mayiritas soup to break the Lenten fast and to crack the red boiled eggs with an opponent before eating and drinking wine until the early hours of the morning.

Surprisingly, on Easter Sunday, people are up as early as the break of dawn to prepare the lamb or goat ready to be roasted on a spit. The lamb is cooked along with the “Kokeretsi”, a favorite Greek dish of wrapped seasoned lamb offal. There is a smell of barbecued meat all across the country, while families and their friends prepare to enjoy a very large feast. Loud music and singing complete the high-spirited celebrations of a very traditional Greek Easter.

On 28th October, Greeks celebrate Oxi-Day (“No-day”) the denial of the deployment of Italian troops in Greece. On that day in 1940 the former Greek dictator Metaxas said “no” to the ultimatum of Mussolini.

The Greeks celebrate Christmas usually with the family, but often enjoy a large group of friends in bars and restaurants on the days around Christmas. 25th & 26th December are bank holiday.