celebrates many local and national holidays and old traditions are still very
much alive. On this page you can read about each month's special days. For
more about special days, visit our
Note! When it somes to religious holidays Skiathos observes the Mt. Athos tradition of celebrating the eveing before the actual date, usually by doing wakes.
1/6 The first month of the year starts with St. Basil's day. He is the Greek equivalent to Father Christmas and brings gifts to the children on New Year's Eve. A Vasilopita, Basil's Pie, is baked in this honour and a coin hidden in it. After the strike of midnight the pie is cut and whoever gets the coin will get luck in the coming year. For more about St. Basil click here.
6/1 Theofania. This is a very old and extremely cold tradition where a great leap of faith is required. Half naked youngsters gather in the Old Harbour and endure a fairly long service where the priest blesses the Holy Cross and then throws it in the sea. The participants then jump in and the person who retrieves the cross will get a special blessing. Going from door to door with the cross, the winner then gets presents and money from the locals. For more photos, click here. To read about The Theofania, please go to our blog (left).
30/1 The Three Hierarchs. The main church of Skiathos is dedicated to the three bishops that the Orthodox view as the fathers of the church. They are St. Gregory, St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil (see above) and lived in the 4th century. Because they were teachers of the faith this is a school holiday.
6/2 Apokries - The Carnival. The ancient, pagan tradition of a turbulent carnival period still lives strong in Greece, much to the church's horror. People, young and old, dress up and go out. Huge quantities of alcohol are consumed, dancing and singing goes on everywhere and pranks are played. In the city of Patras a huge carnival is organised every year and Skiathos there is usually a carnival procession on a smaller scale.
15/2 Clean Monday. This is the last day of the Carnival, which in itself is a pagan tradition abhorred by the church. This day marks the beginning of the 40-day fast leading up to Easter.
25/2 St Reginos is the patron saint of Skopelos. He was the first bishop of the island and was decapitated for refusing to turn back to the old gods in the 4th century. A legend also tells us he rid the island of a dragon. On this day, the saint's holy relics are taken out of the Church of Christ in Skopelos town and then carried around in a procession.
25/3 Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, National Holiday. This is both a religious and secular bank holiday. The Evagelistria Monastery is celebrated on this day as it is the day of the Annunciation. Evagelistria literally means the Happy Message and refers to the day the Virgin Mary was told by the angel she was about to be the mother of Christ. The second reason this day is special is because it is the Day of Independence, marking the end of the 4 century Ottoman Occupation of Greece. It was on this day the War of Independence broke out in 1821. There are usuallt parades on the Old Harbour on this day, usually around 10 AM.
29/3 Megali Deutera - "Big Monday'. This day marks the beginning of the Easter week. As Easter is the biggest holiday of the year there are church services every day and special rituals and traditions are observed each day. As the 40-day fast is drawing to an end the food restrictions are getting harsher and not much more than vegetables, fruit and water are allowed for those following it by the book.
1/4 Megali Pempti - "Big Thursday". Again, there are services in many churches but the main event happens at about 3 in the morning between Thursday and Friday. Everyone gathers by the main church of the Three Hierarchs, or Panagia Limnia at the top of the Plakes neighbourhood. During the day local women have decorated a wooden bier with flowers where an image of the dead Christ is laid. At 3 in the morning it is carried out of the church and then taken in a funeral procession around town. Special hymns are sung by the participants and if you can manage to stay awake; this is one of the most beautiful traditions on Skiathos.
2/4 Megali Paraskevi - Long Friday. This is a day of mourning, as Christ has just been buried. All day, the local church bells ring the slow and quite eerie funeral toll and even though most people today do not observe the tradition, this is a day of quiet contemplation. Until not so long ago there would only be classical music on the radio and the cafes and bars would not play any music at all, people would dress in black etc.
3/4 Megalo Savato - Easter Eve. This is the last day of the Fast. In the evening a small plane comes in, carrying the Holy Flame from the Church of the Holy Tomb in Jerusalem. The flame is carried in a procession to the main church of the Three Hierarchs, accompanied by the local march band, and a service begins. At the strike of midnight, the priest chants Christos Anesti, Christ is resurrected. All the church bells are rung, people cheer and kiss each other, saying Kali Anastasi, Happy Resurrection, someone throws rose petals from the clock tower, there is fire works and fire crackers. Many people have gathered around the church and the Holy Flame is now passed from one candle to the next, making the harbour and side streets around the church light up with thousands of flames. After this, everyone goes home and if they manage to keep their candle burning, they make a cross in their doorway with the soot to bless the house. A special entrails soup called Mayeritsa is then served and the rest of the night is spent eating, drinking and celebrationg.
4/4 Easter Day. This is the one Sunday of the year where nearly everything on Skiathos is shut. Everyone has gathered in gardens and land, roasting lamb on a spit, drinking tsipouro (the local version on ouzo) and singing and dancing all day.
9/4 Zoodochos Pigi - the Spring of Life. Just before the Evagelistria Monastery there are two churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary as the Spring of Life. On this day, there is a service held in the bigger of the two and on the land between the two churches tables and a sound system have been set up. Lambs are roasted on spits and people are invited to join in a party that starts in the early evening and can go on until very late. People called Zoe or Zosis (Life) celebrate their name days.
23/4 The Day of St. George is celebrated in the little church near the airport lake. St. George is a soldier saint and amongst his many functions he is the protector of horsemen and knights. To honour this, local men compete in a horse race around the lake on this day and the winner recieves a special blessing.
1/5 The first of May is the day when flowers are put on front doors. It is a pagan tradition, dating back to the ancient Greeks, who celebrated the return of Persephone, summer, on this day. The custom has it that when the flowers have dried up and fallen off the doors the summer has ended.
21/5 St. Constantine & St. Helen's day. Constantine was the first emperor to make Christianity a state religion and Helen was his mother. She supposedly found the holy cross in Jerusalem and founded many churches. The two are celebrated together and there are two churches in their honour. One is in Koukounaries and the other on the road to Kastro.
24/5 Agiou Pneumatos - The Holy Spirit. The New Testament tells that the apostles had gathered in a house when suddenly the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they suddenly started speaking in tongues, in other words, they were able to speak foreign languages and were so able to spread the message to more people. Many Greeks come to Skiathos for a three day holiday and this is normally when most night clubs open. From being a quiet island, Skiathos suddenly seems to be in the middle of the high season.
1/7 Kosmas & Damien, the Penniless. These brothers were doctors and worked without accepting fees, thereby their nickname. Their church is situated on the road from town that leads up to the church of the Prophet Elijah.
13/7 Archangel Gabriel. The Church of the Archangels is situated not far from the Evagelistria Monastery but Gabriel also has a church in the Kolios area of the islands. Special services are held in the Archangel's honour on this day. Messengers and postal workers are protected by Gabriel.
17/7 St. Marina's Day. This young saint was killed for her faith and is seen in icons holding a demon (temptation) by its horns. Her church is in Kastro, the Old Town, and the locals hold a wake here on the eve before. For more about the saint, click here.
20/7 The Day of the Prophet Elijah. A service is held in the church of the Prophet Elijah. The water well near the church is said to have the best drinking water of the island
15/5 The Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Besides Easter, this is the most important religious holiday of the year as the Virgin is veneered as the most beloved of all saints. The Greeks call her Panagia, the All-Saint, and on this day her death and rebirth in heaven in celebrated. As always on Skiathos, the actual celebrations take place on the evening before and the main service is held at the Evagelistria monastery, followed by a procession where a cloth depicting the Dormition is carried.
18/8 Floros & Lauros. These two brothers were stone masons and are seen in icons holding their told. Their small church on the island Tsougria is decorated for this day and many locals sail over for the service.
27/8 St. Fanourio's Day. This saint's name means the Revealer and he is the saint of lost things, emotions and health. On the evening before, everyone gathers at his lovely church above Skiathos Town (bus stop 4). If the weather allows it the actual service is held outside the church, to accommodate as many as possible. Afterwards special pies called Faneropita, Fanourio's Pie, are brought inside the church by the local women and after the priest has blessed the pies, everyone is invited to eat a piece. This will supposedly make the person dream of where his or her lost things are. Unmarried women will put a piece under their pillows to meet their future husbands in their dreams. For more about the saint, click here.
29/8 John the Baptist's Day. As he was decapitated, this saint is the protector of the head and its various ailments. On the night before, the locals go to his church just outside Kastro to hold a wake. As some locals were killed by lightning here in the 1920's special homage is paid to their shrine by the church. This is also when the church of John the Baptist, the Mamma Mia church, on Skopelos is celebrated.
6/9 The Day of the Archangel Michael. As Michael is the protector of pilots, airports and the Greek Air Force military airport all over the country have open house days. On Skiathos, there is a service at the church of the Archangels not far from the Evagelistria Monastery.
8/9 The Birth of the Virgin Mary. On the eve before this day, the church in the Plakes area (the old neighbourhood) is commemorated with a special service. On the day after, the Virgin's parents, Joachim and Anne, are celebrated.
14/9 The Day of the Holy Cross. This is the day when St. Helen supposedly found the Holy Cross in Jersusalem. Tradition has it that basil was growing on the spot and as the name of this plant means King it has come to represent Christ. The main church of the Three Hierarchs and the Panagia Church are decorated for the occasion and basil plants are given to those attending. Anyone called Stavros or Stavroula has a name day. This was also the day when the Greek submarine Katsonis was sunk by the Germans in 1943 but the memorial service is held on the following Sunday (see below).
17/9 The Day of Holy Wisdom. This is the day when those called Sophia or Sophie have their name days as the name means Wisdom. For the Orthodox this day is of special importance as the greatest Orthodox church ever built, the Agia Sophia, in Istanbul (now a mosque) is dedicated to the Holy Wisdom
19/9 The Katsonis Memorial Day. On the 14th of September, 1943, the Greek Submarine Katsonis was sunk by the Germans, just off the north coast of Skiathos. Most of the crew, as well as the captain, perished but three men managed to swim ashore and were looked after by the locals. A memorial service is held in the main church of the Three Hierarchs and then continues with a touching ceremony by the War Memorial in the Old Harbour. The service usually starts around 10 AM. For the occasion a submarine is brought in from the mainland and there is usually an open house day where people can visit it. Sometimes the visitors are even taken for a ride in it.
26/9 The Day of St. John. Near the airport there is a church/monastery, St. John of the Tower, dedicated to the saint who wrote the Book of Revelation. A service is held here and it is well worth visiting this place. It is not only very beautiful but also contains unusual mosaic icons and special icons with scenes from the Apocalypse.
No Day. Although this is another day dedicated to the Virgin
Mary, this is mainly celebrated as secular national holiday. The Greeks
call it Ochi Day, No Day, is this was the day general Metaxa said no to
the Italian government when they asked to be able to use Greece for their
military moves during the Second World War. Shoolchildren parade along the
old harbour for ths occasion, usuallty around 10 AM.
20-21/11 Kounistra. The Kounistra Icon of the Virgin Mary is the protector of Skiathos. The actual icon was found by Symeon the Hermit in a tree in 1650 and a monastery built to house it nearby. Nowadays the icon is housed in the main church of the Three Hierarchs. The day before, on the 20th, a procession starts by the church and the icon is carried back to the Kounistra monastery above Troulos. A wake is then held the following day the icon is carried back to town. The 21st is celebrated all over Greece as one of the many days in honour of the Vigin Mary.
6/12 The Day of St. Nicholas. Although not Father Christmas in Greece, St. Nicholas is perhaps the most popular saint after the Virgin Mary, as he is the patron saint of all sea farers. Lighted boats are put on streets and squares all over the country and on Skiathos the biggest one is placed in front of the Bourtzi. These boats are the traditional Christmas decoration in Greece although Christmas Trees are now also common. On the eve before there is a service at the church of St. Nicholas in Skiathos Town.
25/12 Christmas Day. Apart from a special Mass not much else happens on this day. Those called Christos have their name days.
31/12 New Years Eve. This is celebrated much like any other country, with a public countdown and lots of fireworks and parties. The rest of the night is usually spent playing cards, which will be an indicator of how your year will be. St. Basil brings presents to Children and his pie is cut. For more, see 1/1.