In Crete, you will come across opportunities to enjoy yourself by
taking part in a Cretan "glenti", or merry-making, almost every day.
In the villages, above all, traditional Cretan weddings will give you a chance
to hear authentic folk music, follow Cretan dances, drink Cretan wine, and eat
tidbits of Cretan meat. The feast-days of churches and monasteries are occasions
for merry-making, spring, summer and autumn. A brief calendar of feast days and
educational and recreational events, though it is a list that grows longer every
year, will give you some idea of the possibilities:
February: The feast of Haghios Charalambos is celbrated with dances, food and drink at Crousona.
March: Carnival time, with festivities all over the island, particularly in the big towns.
Shrove Monday: the first day of Lent, celebrated in the countryside with dances, music and Lenten food (particularly seafood and a special unleavened bread, "lagana", eaten only on this day) and plenty of wine.
March 25: A national holiday, in honour of the Day of Independence and the Feast of the Annunciation. In Apocorona, Chania, a festival is held on Lady Day.
Easter: Religious celebrations take place all over Crete, throughout Holy Week. On Easter Sunday and Monday, everyone feasts on roast lamb and drinks lots of wine. Characas, Monofatsi, is particularly noted for its Easter celebrations. In the second and third day after Easter, an orange festival is held in Skines, Kidonia, Chania, with dances and songs.
April: The Feast-day of St. George, April 23, is a sheep shearing festival. Milk, wine and food are served in the village Haghios Georgios on the plateau of Lassithi. Milk and cheese feast in Assi Gonia, Chania.
When Easter Sunday falls early, the orange festival of Skines is held on the fifth and sixth of May.
May: On May Day, Cretans flock to the countryside to gather wild flowers for May-Day wreaths and to feast.
May 21: A festival, with dancing and singing, is held in Arcalochori, Heracleion. Throughout the week of May 21, celebrations are organized in the honour of the glorious Battle of Crete, particularly in Rethymno, Heracleion and Chania. The festivities include athletic games, dancing in public squares, exhibitions of historical documents from the war, speeches, plays, concerts and religious ceremonies.
June: The village of Piskokephalo, near Crousta, Lassithi, holds a festival.
July 9: A wine festival is organized in Rethymnon, with much merry-making and plenty of free wine.
July 17: The feast-day of St. Marina, celebrated in the village of Voni with dances and feasting. Towards the end of the month, the village of Daphnes, Heracleion, holds a wine festival.
July 26: The feast-day of St. Paraskevi is celbrated in Scoteinos Cave, near Gouves.
August: This is the month of most festivals in Crete. During the first two weeks, Sitia holds a sultana-grape festival, accompanied by many festivities while Anogeia organizes a festival, which includes exhibitions of popular crafts, folk dancing and folk music competitions, a traditional Cretan wedding, concerts and athletic events. Visitors are invited to join in. Religious celebrations are held in Arcalochori, Archanes, Alagni and Haghios Myron, Heracleion. In the village of Critsa, Lassithi, foreigners can be guests at a traditional wedding, in which all the folk customs are observed.
August 15: The Feast of the Assumption is a major feast day all over Crete, in monasteries, convents and churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The most important festivities are held in Neapolis, Lassithi, in Mochos, Paliani, Cardhiotissa and Hodhigitria.
During summer three months (July, August and September) of educational and recreational events are organized by the city of Heracleion. Concerts of classical and folk music, plays, ballets, operas and exhibitions of paintings and photographs are among the attractions that draw artists and intellectuals from all over Greece.
September: The vintage month of wine and raki. In many villages, festivals are held to celebrate the coming of autumn. In Pombia, Heracleion, a festival is organized in honour of the great Cretan hero, Michalis Corakas.
October: A chestnut festival is held at Elos, Kissamos, on October 21.
November: Celebrations in Rethymnon and at the Monastery of Arcadi in memory of the epic events that culminate in the holocaust of 1866.
December: The holy Days are observed according to age-old traditions, especially in the villages. In Cretan towns, carols are sung on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and the feasting starts at midnight. Churches hold services in honour of birth of Christ and the beginning of the New Year.
January: The festivals of Epiphany and of St. John the Baptist on the sixth and seventh of January round off the Christmas festivities. Epiphany is celebrated with religious processions, the blessing of waters and diving by the faithful.
Countless other festivals are organized throughout the year in the villages by hundreds of educational and recreational groups. The festivals, especially those that include feasting and dancing, are publicly announced, so that foreigners can easily find out about them and join the fun.
(text: MANOLIS DOULGERAKIS & UTE SCHACHTELE)
This text (extract) is cited February 2004 from the Heraklio Hoteliers Association tourist pamphlet.
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