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Greece Events

European Music Day

Founded to celebrate the summer solstice (Jun 21), European Music Day sees free concerts at open-air venues in various cities throughout Europe. In Greece it has been extended to last five days. The main events take place in Athens, where past performers include the Scissor Sisters and Transglobal Underground. but there are also concerts in 33 other Greek towns, including Thessaloniki, Rhodes Town (Rhodes), and Hania and Heraklion (Crete).


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Epidaurus Festival

On Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the summer, classical Greek drama is played out at an equally classical Greek site – the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. Close to an extensive archaeological site, the well-preserved theatre was built in two stages in the fourth and second centuries BC. The plays are performed in Modern Greek.


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Assumption Day

Celebrating the Virgin Mary, this is the second biggest religious holiday after Easter throughout Greece. On the island of Tinos, thousands of pilgrims flock to Church of the Megalohari, home to an icon said to perform miracles. It is also the ‘name day’ for anyone called Maria, Panagiotis, Panagiota or Despina.


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Anastenaria Firewalking Festival

The idea of walking on embers began in these parts in 1250, supposedly when holy images were miraculously rescued by local people from a burning church. Another theory attributes the practice to a pre-Christian, Dionysian cult. Certainly from early times, a tradition of firewalking developed here. The modern version has become something of a media and tourist circus in several villages, though probably seen to best advantage in Langadhas. The day begins with holy images being displayed, and selecting a sheep to be sacrificed. Firewalkers limber up with rhythmic dancing to acquire a trance-like state, before dashing over the glowing embers. Many of them clasp icons of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen whilst performing the ritual. Afterwards, feasting continues until the early hours.


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Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Southeast Europe’s major film festival attracts new and emerging film makers from all over the Balkans and beyond. This 10-day event also features retrospectives and special screenings. Illustrious figures such as Francis Ford Coppola and Faye Dunaway have sat on the festival’s jury.


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Hellenic Festival

Open-air theatre, opera, classical music and dance are staged at various sites in Athens, with the top venue being the 2nd-century BC Odeon of Herodes Atticus, carved into the rocks of the southern slope of the Acropolis. Line-ups have included the Sadler’s Wells dance company from London and the Bolshoi Opera from Moscow. In addition, ancient Greek dramas are staged at Epidaurus Ancient Theatre, a two-hour drive southwest of Athens.


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Apokries

Each year, in the 3-week run up to Lent, Greeks celebrate Apokries (carnival). The biggest festivities, including parades with floats and masquerade (fancy dress) are in Patras and Xanthi. Although apokries is connected to the Orthodox Church calendar, it also has links to the Ancient Greek god of wine and ritual intoxication, Dionysus. Celebrations culminate on the weekend before Kathari Devtera (Ash Monday), which is a public holiday, after which a 40-day period of fasting runs until Easter.


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Rockwave Festival

This annual three-day rock festival is staged over a long weekend at the Terra Vibe stadium near Malakassa (37 km north of Athens city centre). There are two main stages – line ups have included international names such The Stranglers, Gogol Bordello and The Prodigy.


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August Full Moon

In August, the night of the full moon sees various archaeological sites throughout the country staying open until 1:30am with free admission. Regular participants include the Acropolis in Athens, as well as places such as Ancient Olympia and Ancient Corinth on the Peloponnese, Delos archaeological site (on the tiny uninhabited island close to Mykonos), and Edessa archaeological site in the Greek region of Macedonia. Concerts are also scheduled at some venues.


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Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Southeast Europe’s major film festival attracts new and emerging film makers from all over the Balkans and beyond. This 10-day event also features retrospectives and special screenings. Illustrious figures such as Francis Ford Coppola and Faye Dunaway have sat on the festival’s jury.


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Acropolis Rally

Staged annually since 1953, this is one of the most gruelling races on the World Rally Championship schedule. The course alters slightly each year, following the rough, twisty, rocky mountain roads outside Athens. It takes place over three days and attracts competitors from all over the world.


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Easter

Easter is the most important religious festival of the year for the Orthodox Church. Good Friday sees candle-lit holy processions departing from churches in most towns and villages. On the Saturday evening, a solemn church service is held, concluding with the midnight resurrection – church bells ring, candles are lit and a big feast of dyed red Easter eggs and magaritsa soup ensues. Easter Sunday is given over to a massive family lunch of whole spit-roast lamb and lots of wine.


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Sound and Light

Combining a dramatic architectural setting with evocative lighting, projected images and stereophonic sound, this show is a kind of theatre without actors. It tells the story of the unequal struggles between the Knights of Saint John and the people of Rhodes against the might of the Turkish Army under the leadership of Suleiman the Great (1522 AD). Some of the great monuments of Rhodes town play a leading role in a drama, based on historic sources, as each is bathed successively in coloured light. They include the Palace of the Grand Master, the Tower of Suleiman, the Houses of the Chapters of the Knights, and the Gardens themselves. The show is given in five different languages and lasts about 50 minutes.


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Thessaloniki Book Fair

Held over four days, the Thessaloniki Book Fair presents Greek and international books to an audience of publishing professionals, the media, schools and the public. About 250 Greek and foreign exhibitors fill the exhibition hall and in addition there are more than 100 events – including authors’ meetings, seminars and workshops. During the exhibition, films based on novels are screened at the Olympion theater complex in Aristotelous Square.


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Feast Day of Saint Demetrius

The patron saint of the city of Thessaloniki, Saint Demetrius is celebrated on his day, both here and throughout Greece. In the countryside, this is also the day when the new yield of wine is first broached, and is a fitting excuse for widespread imbibing. Demetrius was martyred in Thessaloniki and his fame spread throughout the Roman Empire. He was the protector of the city’s population and would save them from danger, disease, epidemics and enemies. Great feasts took place in his honour and a great festival and international trade fair attracted pilgrims and merchants from across Europe. Nowadays, the Thessaloniki International Fair of September echoes the past tradition, while a variety of musical, intellectual, theatrical and artistic activities take place on his day.


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