Assumption of the Virgin Mary: Celebrating Panagia

In Greek, the Virgin Mary is called Panagia.

Every year on August 15th, people come together at regional festivals all over Greece to celebrate and to honor the mother of Christ. Violins, bagpipes, lutes, and traditional dancing all make for a cheerful and joyous atmosphere. People come together to share wine and various local dishes served on large tables outdoors. This celebration is so widespread, it is sometimes referred to as summer Easter. Of the approximately 20,000 festivals that take place around Greece, the most notable celebrations are held in Amorgos, Ikaria, Kefalonia, Lesvos, and Paros.

Unique Greek Traditions for the Virgin Mary Assumption Day

On this particular day, all Greek islands hold celebrations, but a few stand out for their unique traditions and atmosphere!

  • On the island of Paros, it is said that the church of the Virgin Mary has 99 doors that are visible and one that is not.
  • In Markopoulo, Kefalonia, the Church of Panagia Lagouvarda (or Panagia Fidousa) features snakes from the 6th to the 15th of August. These are called Virgin Mary’s snakes.
  • In Koufonissia each year, a sailing race marks the holiday.

So if you find yourself in Greece in mid-August, head to the nearest πλατεία ([plateía] square) and take part in the festivities!

Written by Eleni Maria Georgiou, author of Eleni’s GREEK PHRASE BOOK: A Beginner’s Guide to Greek Culture and the Greek Language. For more information about Eleni, visit lenacke.com.

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