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Archive for the 'Greek Holidays' Category

The Greek National Anthem: Hymn to Liberty


Have you ever heard Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν (Ímnos is tin Eleftherían) – “Hymn to Liberty,” the Greek national anthem? The music is beautiful yet imposing. However, the lyrics might seem a bit complicated to anyone learning Greek, regardless of their level, since they are full of old-fashioned words and phrases which aren’t used in modern Greek anymore. 

This is mainly because the poem that later became the lyrics of the Greek national anthem was written in Katharevousa, an older form of Greek used from the 18th to the 20th century. Katharevousa was formed as a compromise between ancient Greek and the vernacular language that most people used during these days, called Demotic Greek. Even today, various phrases of Katharevousa have survived and are used mainly in literature, official documents, and poetry.

Don’t worry, though. We’ve tried to break it down for you as much as possible so that you can understand each verse. 

In this article, we will discuss the history of the Greek national anthem. Then, we’ll take a closer look at its lyrics and their translation in English. We will also reference the occasions when the Greek national anthem is played and used, and last but not least, we learn that another country also uses the same national anthem. Can you guess which one?

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  1. The History of the Greek National Anthem
  2. Lyrics with Romanization & Translation
  3. Occasions When It Is Played & Heard
  4. Other Countries Using the Same National Anthem
  5. How Can Help You Learn Greek

1. The History of the Greek National Anthem

A Greek Flag on a Residential Balcony

The National Anthem of Greece consists of the first stanzas of the poem Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν (Ímnos is tin Eleftherían) – “Hymn to Liberty.” This is quite a long poem, written in May 1823 in Zakynthos by Dionysios Solomos, the so-called national poet of Greece. However, he wasn’t called like that only because he wrote the poem that became the National Anthem of Greece but also because of his rich poetic contribution to Greek culture and the preservation of earlier poetic tradition.

Originally, the poem consisted of 158 stanzas, with the first 24 constituting the National Greek Anthem. However, later, only the first two stanzas prevailed. In spite of that, the Greek national anthem is known as the longest national anthem in the world.

It was set to music by Nikolaos Mantzaros, and approximately forty years later, in 1865, it was eventually adopted as the Greek National Anthem. The music composed by N. Mantzaros integrated folk music elements and was intended for a four-voice male choir.   

Regarding the meaning of the poem, Solomos was inspired by the Greek War of Independence and wrote it to honor the brave Greeks who struggled for independence after 400 years of Ottoman rule. This hymn narrates the oppression of the Greeks under the Ottomans and their hope and struggles for freedom. It’s an ode to bravery and patriotism, which manages to pass down this sentiment to all the Greeks worldwide. 

Nevertheless, its establishment as the Greek National Anthem didn’t come without struggle. Since both Solomos and Mantzaros were residing in the Ionian islands, it quickly became a revolutionary anthem in this part of Greece. In 1844, N. Mantzaros submitted an early version of the piece to King Otto of Greece, who awarded both D. Solomos and N. Mantzaros with honorary titles. However, he didn’t embrace it as the National Anthem.

That moment came later, in 1865, when King George I visited Corfu after the integration of the Ionian islands with Greece. During the ceremony, he heard a version of the piece by the Corfu Philharmonic Society, and he was so impressed that he issued a royal decree which acknowledged it as the National Anthem. Ιt was ordered to be performed “by all the naval formations of the Royal Navy.” The foreign ambassadors were also informed so that it could be played by foreign ships on occasions when they paid tribute to the King of Greece or the Greek flag. 

Today, it’s the official National Greek Anthem and it is used on a variety of occasions, as we will see later in this article.

2. Lyrics with Romanization & Translation

A Hand Holding a Greek Flag

Now, let’s take a look at the lyrics. In the table below, you will find the original Greek lyrics, along with their romanization and a literal translation in modern English. 

In that way, you will be able to learn and understand the meaning of the anthem, although it might seem a bit complex from the first sight. Take your time studying each verse and then practice saying the anthem out loud, ideally only focusing on the first column, indicated with blue color. 

Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν (Ímnos is tin Eleftherían) – “Hymn to LIberty”

GreekRomanizationLiteral translation in modern English
1Σε γνωρίζω από την κόψηSe gnorízo apó tin kópsi“I know you from the cutting edge”
2του σπαθιού την τρομερήtu spathiú tin tromerí“(that is) mighty (the edge) of the sword.”
3σε γνωρίζω από την όψηse gnorízo apó tin ópsi“I know you from the sight”
4που με βια μετράει τη γη.pu me via metrái ti yi.“which in haste paces the earth.”
5Απ’ τα κόκαλα βγαλμένηAp’ ta kókala vgalméni“Risen from the bones”
6των Ελλήνων τα ιερά,ton Elínon ta ierá,“the holy (bones) of the Greeks”
7και σαν πρώτα ανδρειωμένηke san próta andrioméni“and valiant as before”
8χαίρε, ω χαίρε, Ελευθεριά!hére, o hére, Eleftheriá“hail, oh hail, Liberty!”

→ Do you want to get a feel of the music of the Greek National Anthem? Or maybe you want to sing along? Click here to watch a relevant video on YouTube. 

3. Occasions When It Is Played & Heard

The Greek national anthem is played and heard on the following occasions:

  • On National Holidays before the students or military parade
  • At the beginning of sports events, where the Greek national team participates (e.g. football, basketball, etc.)
  • During an Olympic medal ceremony, if a Greek athlete wins the gold medal
  • During the closing ceremony of the Olympics, as a tribute to the ancient Greek roots of the Games.
  • Whenever there’s a Greek flag raising at schools, public buildings, or in the army

At this point, we should note that whenever the Greek National Anthem is played, one should stand at attention as an expression of respect.

A Torchbearer Carrying the Olympic Torch

4. Other Countries Using the Same National Anthem

Only a handful of countries around the world use the national anthem of another country as their own. And one of those countries is Cyprus.

The Greek national anthem is also used by Cyprus as its national anthem, since 1966. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as Cyprus used to be a Greek territory. Today, many people acknowledge their dual identity (Cypriot nationality and Greek ethnicity) and view the use of the Greek national anthem as a bond to the motherland. However, this is often a point of controversy amongst Cypriots. Others say that they need to find their own identity, thus they shouldn’t use the Greek national anthem and should come up with their own. 

5. How Can Help You Learn Greek

A Little Boy Holding a Greek Flag

In this article, we dived into the history of the Greek National Anthem, its lyrics, the occasions when it is played and heard, and its adoption by Cyprus as its national anthem.

Wondering how you can get even more help during your Greek learning process? is an online educational platform, which grants you access to high-quality, practical knowledge about Greek language learning. At, we aim to provide you with everything you need to know about the Greek language in a fun and interesting way. 

And if you need a bit more help, you can also upgrade to Premium PLUS and take advantage of our MyTeacher program to learn Greek with your own personal teacher, who will answer any questions you might have!

Do you have any questions about the Greek national anthem?

Let us know in the comments below.

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A Brief Overview of Greek Culture


The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years. From Cycladic and Minoan civilizations to modern Greek society, each period has shaped and left its footprint on Greek culture as we know it today. 

On this page, we’ll explore some of the most important aspects of Greek culture, including philosophy, religion, art, and traditional holidays. Keep reading to enter the fascinating world of modern Greek culture.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Greek Table of Contents
  1. Philosophy & Religion
  2. Family & Work
  3. Art
  4. Food
  5. Holidays & Observances
  6. Conclusion

1. Philosophy & Religion

A Greek Orthodox Chapel in Santorini

Philosophy and religion play a huge role in Greek culture and traditions. Becoming familiar with these aspects of Greek society will not only immerse you in the culture, but also boost your language learning! 

A- Ancient Greek Philosophers

Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and so many others… Ancient Greeks showcased a clear tendency toward philosophy, which emerged from their urge to understand the world around them as well as the meaning of life. Ancient Greek philosophy rose around the sixth century BC and continued to flourish throughout the Hellenistic period. This set the basis for the early development of different sciences, including astronomy, mathematics, physics, and biology. 

B- Greek Orthodox Church

Most Greeks identify as Orthodox Christians and this highly influences the society as a whole. Nearly every Greek village has its own church, which also serves as a meeting point for the villagers. There are also plenty of chapels on top of mountains and on the edge of cliffs, offering spectacular views. If you have the chance to visit a Greek church or chapel, please feel free to do so regardless of your beliefs or religion. Just make sure to wear conservative clothing—no shorts or trousers, and not showing too much skin. 

2. Family & Work

Greek culture values family, which is an integral part of the social structure in Greece. Family members develop very strong bonds—even members of the extended family can be found around the house. Children are expected to care for their elderly parents and usually live nearby (or even in the same house), even if they have their own family. Greeks tend to be very proud of their heritage, and the family offers psychological and economic support throughout their lives. 

On the other hand, interactions in the workplace are similar to those of other European countries. Worklife normally involves eight-hour shifts five days a week. Many people are working or investing in the tourism sector, which is the most important industry in the country. 

Nevertheless, Greece underwent a major economic crisis from 2007 to 2009, resulting in a dramatic reduction of the standard monthly wage. For the past several years, Greece has been taking consistent steps toward increasing the standard wage and creating a favorable economic environment for investments. 

3. Art

The arts thrived in Ancient Greece. Back then, minimalism was prominent—for example, thin lines and geometrical patterns were very popular. And this was just the start, since Greek civilization eventually gave birth to Western civilization. Even today, many Greek art pieces have managed to sneak their way into art-lovers’ hearts. Let’s explore some of the most famous Greek art pieces of all time!

A- Αρχιτεκτονική (Arhitektonikí) – “Architecture”

A Photo of the Parthenon

When you hear ‘Greek architecture,’ the first thing that probably comes to your mind is “The Parthenon” in the Acropolis of Athens. Indeed, η Ακρόπολη της Αθήνας (i Akrópoli tis Athínas), or “the Acropolis of Athens,” is an ancient town at the highest level of the city and it serves as the cornerstone of Greek architecture. People from all over the world come to Greece to admire it. We can say with all certainty that this is the most famous sample of Ancient Greek architecture.

Other, more contemporary pieces of Greek architecture are the traditional white houses with blue shades of the Greek Aegean islands. This is where the sea meets the sky. These homes are minimal and iconic at the same time.     

B- Γλυπτική (Gliptikí) – “Sculpting”

Of all surviving art from Ancient Greece, the sculptures are most prominent today. Try finding a large museum in Europe with zero ancient Greek sculptures in it—believe me, it’s harder than it looks!

Some of the most famous Greek sculptures include: 

C- Ζωγραφική (Zografikí) – “Painting” 

While painting did flourish in Ancient Greece, the natural substances that were used as paints faded over the years. As a result, the surviving collection of Greek paintings is a bit smaller.

One of the most important collections, which was able to withstand the wear and tear of time, consists of the Minoan frescoes. These pieces, painted on walls, mainly represent aspects of everyday Minoan life. To this day, you can admire some of the oldest samples of Greek painting within the Minoan Palace, as well as in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

In addition, you might have heard of these famous Greek painters: 

D- Λογοτεχνία (Logotehnía) & Ποίηση (Píisi) – “Literature & Poetry”

Greek literature dates back to the ancient times, spanning from 800 BC until today. Epic poems, such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, make up a great portion of early Greek literary masterpieces.

Later on, many Greek writers gained worldwide fame. One of the most important Greek writers was certainly Odysseas Elytis, a representative of romantic modernism who won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979. Before him, the prominent poet Giorgos Seferis made history in 1963 by becoming the first Greek to win the Nobel Prize. Seferis is largely known for his poems, many of which were influenced by Hellenism and his love for Greece. He also composed a few works of prose, most of which were published posthumously. 

Poet C.P. Cavafy became famous worldwide for his poem Ιθάκη (Itháki), or “Ithaca,” and Dionysios Solomos is considered Greece’s national poet. The first two verses of Solomos’s poem Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν (Ímnos is tin Eleftherían), or “Hymn to Freedom,” later became the national anthem of Greece and Cyprus.

Other famous Greek writers include: 

E- Θέατρο (Théatro) – “Theatre”

Ancient Greek Theatre in Ephesus

Love of theatre is one of the most popular characteristics of Greek culture, and for good reason: the Greek culture is a theatrical one.

It all began with Ancient Greek drama, which consisted of two genres: tragedy and comedy. This form of theatre reached its peak around 500 BC. By the way, did you know that the word “tragedy” is derived from the Greek word τραγωδία (tragodía)? Well, now that you do, let’s take a look at this unique form of performing arts. 

Ancient Greeks thought highly of the power of speech. Therefore, they combined speech with movement and singing to create an influential form of drama. Most tragedies are based upon myths and their main characteristic is catharsis—the purification of emotions that spectators experience at some point during the performance. 

The most famous playwrights of this genre were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Many of their works are still being performed today in theatres of all kinds, even in Ancient Greek theatres. 

However, Greek theatre wasn’t all about drama. Aristophanes was a famous Ancient Greek comic playwright, today considered to be the “Father of Comedy” and one of the best-known early satirists. Some of his most popular plays include The Women at the Thesmophoria Festival and The Frogs.

When you visit Greece, you should definitely search for any plays being performed in Ancient Greek theatres, such as Epidaurus or the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It will be a unique experience in terms of location and acoustics. The summer is the best time to do this. 

4. Food

A Plate of Traditional Greek Souvlaki

Oh, the Greek cuisine…!

Greek culture and food go hand in hand.

When fresh vegetables meet local cheese, meat, and olive oil, something magical happens. Greek cuisine is an acknowledged representative of the broader Mediterranean cuisine. The most popular Greek dishes include:

  • παστίτσιο (pastítsio)
  • μουσακάς (musakás)
  • φασολάδα (fasoláda
  • γεμιστά (yemistá)
  • σουβλάκι (suvláki)

In Greece, you can taste all of the above at nearly any ταβέρνα (tavérna), or restaurant with Greek cuisine. Greeks love to eat along with their family and friends. Therefore, they often meet and enjoy drinking some ούζο (úzo) or τσίπουρο (tsípuro), accompanied by a variety of Greek delicacies, known as μεζέδες (mezédes)—small dishes of traditional Greek food.

Have you ever eaten or heard of any of these traditional Greek foods? 

If you want to learn more about Greek cuisine, check out our relevant blog post. 

5. Holidays & Observances

A Greek Flag with Santorini Island in the Background

Greeks don’t miss any chance to spend public holidays with their friends and family. The two most important Greek holidays are:

  • Revolution Day (March 25)

    After nearly 400 years under Ottoman rule and an almost decade-long revolution, Greece finally became an independent country on February 3, 1830. The Greek Revolution that began on March 25, 1821, is one of the most important chapters of Greek history and it’s celebrated across the country. Interestingly, the Greeks don’t celebrate their independence as there is no public holiday to commemorate the events of February 3, 1830.

    March 25 is a national holiday for Greeks, meaning that the schools are closed. Nevertheless, on the business day immediately before that, each school organizes a feast with songs, poems, short school plays, and traditional dances. Each classroom is decorated with laurel wreaths and small Greek flags as a sign of patriotism. 

    Here is the slogan of the Greek Revolution, which is often included in various acts of the celebration. 

    Greek: Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος!
    Romanization: Elefthería í Thánatos!
    Translation: “Freedom or Death!”

    Since religion is an integral part of Greek culture, we should mention that March 25 is also a religious holiday where the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel.

  • Ohi Day (October 28)

    On October 28, 1940, Ioannis Metaxas—the dictator of Greece at that time—refused the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This was the start of a Greek-Italian war, which marked Greece’s involvement in World War II. The word ΌXI (ÓHI), or “NO” in uppercase letters, is iconic for Greeks as it represents Metaxas’s refusal.

    This is another national holiday, also commemorated in schools one day before. It celebrates the courage of Greeks to resist, a trait which is often praised in the celebrations. 

6. Conclusion

Greek culture is rich, and we couldn’t possibly cover all its aspects in a single lesson. However, we hope that you’re now a step closer to understanding Greek culture as well as the traits of modern Greek society. 

At, we aim to combine cultural insight with useful Greek language materials in order to create a well-rounded approach to language learning. 

Start learning Greek today in a consistent and organized manner by creating a free lifetime account on Tons of free vocabulary lists, YouTube videos, and grammar tips are waiting for you! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments how Greek culture compares to that in your country. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Celebrating the Greek Orthodox Saturday of Souls in Greece

While Greece is a country of many religions, over ninety percent of the Greek population identifies as Eastern Orthodox Christian. This makes all related holidays a huge deal here, and today we’re going to tell you about what you can expect on a Greek Orthodox Saturday of Souls.

You’ll learn about the basics of Soul Saturday, Orthodox traditions that usually take place, and lots of useful vocabulary words.

Let’s get started.

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1. What is the Greek Saturday of Souls?

Within the Greek Orthodox Church, there’s a tradition of praying for the νεκρός (nekrós), or “dead,” every Saturday. This is done in memoriam of when Jesus died on the Great and Holy Saturday.

However, there are also two specific days set aside each year, which are often called Soul Saturday or Saturday of the Souls. On each Soul Saturday, Greek Orthodox Christians Τιμώ τους νεκρούς (Timó tus nekrús), or “honor the deceased,” and pray for their forgiveness. This is done specifically for those who have died but—for whatever reason—never had a proper memorial service.

Even before Christianity entered Greece, it was very common for the Greek people to hold memorials for their dead, in which they offered sacrifices and prayed in order to ensure the deceased’s forgiveness.

    → Check out our Religion vocabulary list for some useful words!

2. When are the Soul Saturday Dates?

A Wheat Field

The dates of Soul Saturday vary each year, based on the Eastern Orthodox religious calendar.

There are two main Soul Saturdays. The first one is on the Σάββατο πριν την Κυριακή της Απόκρεω (Sávato prin tin Kiriakí tis Apókreo), or “Saturday before Meatfare Sunday.” The second one is on the Σάββατο πριν την Κυριακή της Πεντηκοστής (Sávato prin tin Kiriakí tis Pendikostís), or “Saturday before Pentecost Sunday.”

For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s dates for the next ten years.

Year First Soul Saturday
(Saturday of Souls Before
Meatfare Sunday)
Second Soul Saturday
(Saturday of Souls Before
2020 February 22 June 6
2021 March 6 June 19
2022 February 26 June 11
2023 February 18 June 3
2024 March 9 June 22
2025 February 22 June 7
2026 February 14 May 30
2027 March 6 June 19
2028 February 19 June 3
2029 February 10 May 26

3. How Do the Greeks Celebrate Soul Saturday?

A Woman Visiting a Cemetery

The most common Saturday of Souls traditions include μνημόσυνο (mnimósino), or “memorial services,” and an accompanying τρισάγιο (trisáyio), or “special memorial prayer.” As we mentioned earlier, this is a time to pray for the deceased’s forgiveness so that they can αναπαύομαι εν ειρήνη (anapávome en iríni), or “rest in peace.” For a typical memorial service, the event will first be publicized via printed announcements; during the actual service, the Divine Liturgy will be given, followed by the memorial prayer.

In Greece, Saturday of Souls is also an opportunity for people to visit the μνήμα (mníma), or “tomb,” of a loved one. Here, they show respect to the deceased by cleaning the tombstone, taking care of the land around it, leaving flowers, burning incense, and lighting the καντήλι (kandíli), or “vigil oil lamp.”

Another popular tradition is that of eating koliva. This is a delicious dessert that consists of boiled σιτάρι (sitári), or “wheat,” raisins, cinnamon, nuts, pomegranate, and powdered sugar. This dish is handed out after a memorial service, and if there are any leftovers, they’re given to friends and family; this allows the dead to be symbolically forgiven. This custom is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece, because the Ancient Greeks used to offer the dead a similar dish of wheat and nuts.

Crete has a custom for Soul Saturday (and the day preceding it), in which people don’t cut down trees. This is because they believe there are souls sitting on the branches, and cutting the trees down would disturb them.

4. Koliva from Strangers

There’s a Greek proverb, which means in English: “He is having a memorial with koliva from strangers.” What does that mean?

Usually, when someone says this, they’re referring to the fact that someone is pretending to be generous when they’re actually giving away someone else’s money or resources!

5. Must-Know Soul Saturday Vocabulary

A Lit Vigil Oil Lamp

Let’s review some of the vocabulary words from this article!

  • Σιτάρι (Sitári) — “Wheat” [n. neut]
  • Ψυχοσάββατο (Psihosávato) — “Soul Saturday” [neut]
  • Σάββατο πριν την Κυριακή της Απόκρεω (Sávato prin tin Kiriakí tis Apókreo) — “Saturday before Meatfare Sunday”
  • Σάββατο πριν την Κυριακή της Πεντηκοστής (Sávato prin tin Kiriakí tis Pendikostís) — “Saturday before Pentecost Sunday”
  • Νεκρός (Nekrós) — “Dead” [n. masc]
  • Αναπαύομαι εν ειρήνη (Anapávome en iríni) — “Rest in peace”
  • Μνημόσυνο (Mnimósino) — “Memorial services” [n. neut]
  • Μνήμα (Mníma) — “Tomb” [n. neut]
  • Καντήλι (Kandíli) — “Vigil oil lamp” [n. neut]
  • Αγγελτήριο (Angeltírio) — “Printed announcement” [n. neut]
  • Τρισάγιο (Trisáyio) — “Special memorial prayer” [n. neut]
  • Θεία Λειτουργία (Thía Lituryía) — “Divine Liturgy” [fem]
  • Κόλλυβα (Kóliva) — “Koliva” [n. neut]
  • Ζάχαρη άχνη (Záhari áhni) — “Powdered sugar” [fem]
  • Λιβανίζω (Livanízo) — “cense” [v.]
  • Τιμώ τους νεκρούς (Timó tus nekrús) — “Honor the deceased”

If you want to hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase listed above, be sure to visit our Greek Soul Saturday vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about the Saturday of Souls, Greek Orthodox Church traditions and customs for it, and some vocab you can start using today!

Does your country have a Soul Saturday holiday, or another holiday for commemorating the deceased? Please tell us about it in the comments; we love hearing from you!

To continue learning about Greek culture and the language, has several free resources for you, straight from our blog:

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We want to help you reach your language-learning goals, and we’ll be here with you every step of the way there.

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Celebrating the Apokries Carnival in Greece

Apokries, the term for Carnival season in Greece, is a major celebration throughout the country, and one of the most colorful. With roots in both paganism and Christianity, traditions can look quite different from one region to the next!

In this article, you’ll learn all about the Greek Carnival, from its origins to modern-day celebrations around Greece. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

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1. What is Carnival?

Carnival in Greece is a period of merrymaking, entertainment, and masquerade. The atmosphere is cheerful, with many costume parties, lots of teasing, and carnivals that take place in various regions of Greece. The period of Carnival in Greek culture is also the official opening of the Triodion period, a period which is intended to prepare us for the welcoming of Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with fasting, prayer, and repentance.

The three weeks of Carnival are called Profoní (Announcement Week), Κreatiní (Meat Week), and Tyriní (Cheese Week), which is also called Tyrofágou (Cheese-eating Week). The Κreatiní week ends with Apókreo Sunday (No-meat Sunday) because from the following day, we abstain from eating meat. During the week of Tyrofágou, we eat dairy products as an intermediate step between eating meat and the fasting that will follow in the next period, the Lent.

Carnival, however, is also associated with ancient pagan events, especially with the worshipping of the god Dionysus, who would be reborn to bring spring.

2. When is the Greek Carnival Season?

Confetti, String, and Little Firecrackers

Greek Carnival (Apokries) lasts for three weeks and is celebrated seventy days before Easter, during February or March. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s start and end dates for the next ten years.

Start Date End Date
2020 February 9 March 1
2021 February 21 March 14
2022 February 13 March 6
2023 February 5 February 26
2024 February 25 March 17
2025 February 9 March 2
2026 February 1 February 22
2027 February 21 March 14
2028 February 6 February 27
2029 January 28 February 18

3. Carnival Traditions in Greece

Carnival King

For Carnival in Greece, traditions of the province show those deeper pagan roots with animal-like disguises—mainly reminiscent of billy goats—and large bells that expel the evil with deafening noises. One well-known custom is that of the Γενίτσαροι και Μπούλες (Yenítsari ke Búles), or “Janissaries and Boules,” of Naousa, who wander around the streets dancing with specific steps and wearing peculiar masks called prósopi (“faces”). In these Greek Carnival costumes, the Boules are men dressed as women, while the Janissaries wear fustanella skirts.

Carnivals are organized in large cities, the most famous one being that of Patras. Other well-known carnivals are those of Xanthi and of Moschato, in Athens. The Patras Carnival includes events such as dances, parades, a treasure hunt, a children’s carnival, and more. It culminates on the last weekend of Carnival with the evening parade of floats and their crews, and with the ritual burning of the Βασιλιάς καρνάβαλος (vasiliás karnávalos), or “Carnival King,” on St. Nicholas Pier in the harbor. The costumes of the participants and the floats are highly imaginative and occasionally Σατιρικός (satirikós), or “satirical.”

Generally, during Carnival, people roam the streets in costumes throwing streamers, confetti, and teasing each other. In the area of Plaka in Athens, however, if you see youngsters with plastic clubs, beware! They will club you hard!

4. What’s in a Name?

Do you know what the word “carnival” exactly means and where it comes from?

The word “carnival” comes from the Latin “carne levare,” which, like the Greek word apo-kriá, refers to abstinence from meat. Some experts, however, believe that it came from the also Latin “carrus navalis,” which means “nautical carriage.” The former view supports the Christian origin of the term while the latter a more pagan origin.

5. Must-Know Vocab for Carnival in Greece

People Dressed up in Costumes for Carnival

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this lesson? Here’s a list of the most important Greek vocabulary for Carnival season!

  • Κομφετί (komfetí) — “confetti”
  • Κουστούμι (kustúmi) — “costume”
  • Απόκριες (apókries) — “carnival”
  • Μασκάρεμα (maskárema) — “masquerade”
  • Πάρτι μασκέ (párti maské) — “costume party”
  • Μεταμφίεση (metamfíesi) — “disguise”
  • Βασιλιάς καρνάβαλος (vasiliás karnávalos) — “Carnival King”
  • Σερπαντίνα (serpandína) — “streamer”
  • Ρόπαλο (rópalo) — “club”
  • Καρναβάλι (karnaváli) — “Carnival”
  • Νηστεία (nistía) — “fast”
  • Χαρτοπόλεμος (hartopólemos) — “confetti”
  • Αποκριάτικος (apokriátikos) — “of or related to Carnival”
  • Κυριακή του Τελώνου και Φαρισαίου (Kiriakí tu Telónu ke Fariséu) — “Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee”
  • Κυριακή του Ασώτου (Kiriakí tu Asótu) — “Sunday of the Prodigal Son”
  • Κυριακή της Απόκρεω (Kiriakí tis Apókreo) — “Meatfare Sunday”
  • Κυριακή της Τυροφάγου (Kiriakí tis Tirofágu) — “Cheesefare Sunday”
  • Γενίτσαροι και Μπούλες (Yenítsari ke Búles) — “Janissaries and Boules”
  • Κουδούνι ζώου (kudúni zóu) — “animal bell”
  • Ο Γέρος και η Κορέλα (O Yéros ke i Koréla) — “Yeros and Korela”
  • Μάσκα (máska) — “mask”
  • Μακιγιάζ (makiyáz) — “makeup”
  • Σατιρικός (satirikós) — “satirical”
  • Γαλακτοκομικό προϊόν (galaktokomikó proión) — “dairy product”

To hear the pronunciation of each word, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to visit our Greek Carnival vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about the Carnival season in Greece with us. What are your thoughts on this holiday? Do you celebrate Carnival in your country? We look forward to hearing from you!

If you’re interested in learning more about Greek culture and holidays, you can visit the following pages on

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Theophany: Celebrating Epiphany Day in Greece

On Epiphany Day, Greece celebrates the baptism of Jesus, which manifested the Holy Trinity on Earth. This is one of the most significant Christian holidays in the country and is observed with a variety of traditions.

In this article, you’ll learn about the Epiphany holiday in Greece, from its origin to current Epiphany traditions in Greece.

At, it’s our goal to ensure that every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative—starting with this article!

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1. What is Epiphany in Greece?

Theophany, or Epiphany, is a Christian holiday that’s celebrated every year to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. It’s the third and last holiday of Christmastide, that is to say, the period from Christmas until Epiphany. This period of time is called the Twelve Days because it lasts for twelve days.

According to the Scriptures, one day Jesus appeared before John the Baptist, who was preaching and baptizing in the Jordan River, asking to be baptized. During the baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descended from heaven and hovered over Jesus while the voice of God was heard from heaven at the same time.

This is how the Holy Trinity was manifested on Earth. Because of this occurrence, the Εκκλησία (eklisía), or “Church,” established the sacrament of baptism with the use of water. This is also why many celebrations of Epiphany in Greece have to do with water.

In some countries, the celebration of the Epiphany also has to do with the visitation of the Magi to Baby Jesus. But Epiphany Day in Greece focuses more on Jesus’ baptism.

2. Date of Epiphany

Christian Man with Bible

Each year, Greeks celebrate Epiphany on January 6. The night before is called Epiphany Eve.

3. How is Epiphany Celebrated in Greece?

Man Swimming

On Epiphany Day, in the coastal regions of Greece, the custom of the blessing of the waters takes place, something that is reminiscent of the baptism of Jesus. During the ceremony, which is also simply called “sanctification,” the waters are blessed by the wishes and invocations of the Ιερέας (ieréas), or “priest.” The immersion of the Holy Cross in the waters further purifies it.

In non-coastal regions, the ceremony can take place in a river, a lake, or even in a water reservoir. Sanctifications are also carried out in homes, where a priest with a sprig of basil sprinkles the house with Αγιασμός (ayiasmós), or “holy water.”

When the Holy Cross gets immersed into the body of water, many a daring Κολυμβητής (kolimvitís), meaning “swimmer,” or Βουτηχτής (vutihtís), meaning “diver,” dive into the icy-cold waters to retrieve it. Whoever retrieves the Cross kisses it and then shows it around the houses and receives generous gifts. In the Greek movie Madalena, which was filmed in Antiparos in 1960, there’s a typical reproduction of this custom, although somewhat tragicomic!

Another Epiphany celebration in Greece is that of the Κάλαντα των Φώτων (kálanda ton Fóton), or “Epiphany carol,” that children sing the day before the holiday. There’s also the washing of icons.

Do you remember the goblins, the demons that rise to the Earth’s surface on Christmas Eve? With the Epiphany sanctifications, they become frightened, flee, and return again to their subterranean hideout where they remain until the next Christmas Eve!

4. Theophany

The Greek word for Theophany is a compound word. Do you know which words it consists of and why?

The Greek word for Theophany consists of the word Theos (God) and from the ancient verb phaino, which means “to reveal.” The holiday is called this because, as we saw, God revealed Himself on Earth.

Words like phainomai (to seem; to appear), phenomenon, fantasy, phantom, and fanari (lantern; traffic light) derive from the verb phaino.

5. Essential Vocabulary for the Epiphany in Greece

Holy Water

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words we saw in this article? Here’s the essential Greek vocabulary for Epiphany!

  • Εκκλησία (eklisía) — “Church”
  • Ιερέας (ieréas) — “Priest”
  • Τα Φώτα (Ta Fóta) — “Epiphany”
  • Αγία Τριάδα (Ayía Triáda) — “Trinity”
  • Η ρίψη του Σταυρού (i rípsi tu Stavrú) — “The throwing of the Holy Cross”
  • Η ανέλκυση του Σταυρού (i anélkisi tu Stavrú) — “The recovery of the Holy Cross”
  • Κολυμβητής (kolimvitís) — “Swimmer”
  • Ραντίζω (radízo) — “Plash”
  • Ουρανία (Uranía) — “Ourania”
  • Αγιασμός (ayiasmós) — “Holy water”
  • Αντίδωρο (andídoro) — “Holy bread
  • Φωτεινή (Fotiní) — “Fotini”
  • Κάλαντα των Φώτων (kálanda ton Fóton) — “Epiphany carol”
  • Βουτηχτής (vutihtís) — “Diver”
  • Δαιμόνιο (demónio) — “Demon”
  • Χορός των καλικάντζαρων (horós ton kalikádjaron) — “Dance of the elves”
  • Χριστιανός (hristianós) — “Christian”
  • Βάπτιση του Ιησού Χριστού (Váptisi tu Iisú Hristú) — “Baptism of Jesus Christ”
  • Καλικάντζαρος (kalikánjaros) — “Goblin”
  • Θεοφάνια (Theofánia) — “Epiphany”
  • Ψαλμός (psalmós) — “Psalm”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our Greek Epiphany vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Epiphany in Greece with us!

Do you celebrate Epiphany in your country? If so, are traditions different or similar to those in Greece? Let us know in the comments; we look forward to hearing from you!

If you’re interested in learning more about Greek culture, or if you want a few more wintery words up your sleeve, you may find the following pages useful:

  • Greek Culture
  • Top 5 Pop Culture Things/Icons You Need to Know About Greece
  • Greek Slang: Popular Greek Slang Words & Phrases
  • Words for Winter Snow Days
  • How Will You Spend Your Winter Holiday?
  • Greek is a complex language, but learning it doesn’t have to be boring or overwhelming. With, it can even be fun! If you’re serious about mastering the language, create your free lifetime account today.

    Happy Greek learning! 🙂

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    Greek Culture & Holidays: The Ohi Day Celebration

    What is Ohi Day, and what role does it play in Greek culture?

    Simply put, on Ohi Day, Greece commemorates the day on which the Greek prime minister refused an ultimatum provided by the Italians in 1940. This significant action led to (and took place at the same time as) a chain of events that unraveled throughout WWII and the Greco-Italian War.

    In this article, you’ll learn the most essential Ohi Day facts: its history, current celebrations, and related vocabulary.

    At, we hope to make every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative!

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    1. Ohi Day Foundations: What is Ohi Day in Greece?

    On Ohi Day, we celebrate the anniversary of OHI (NO). It’s a day of national celebration and a holiday, in memory of the “no” that the Greek prime minister and dictator Ioannis Metaxas answered to the Italian government’s ultimatum, received via the Italian ambassador, that demanded the free access of Italian troops to Greece.

    Metaxas refused this imperialistic policy of the Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, also known as Douche, on the very same day that the Italian troops invaded Epirus. So, the involvement of Greece in World War II began with the Greco-Italian War.

    The Italians retreated in the spring of 1941. This first victory of the Allies against the Axis powers boosted the morale in enslaved Europe. What followed, however, was the German invasion of Greece and the Occupation that lasted four horrible years.

    During the Greco-Italian War, music and front-page caricatures boosted morale in Greece. Sofia Vembo was the national voice that provided encouragement to the Greek soldiers on the front line with patriotic and satiric songs such as “Children of Greece, Oh Children,” “Douche puts on His Uniform,” and “Sucker Mussolini.”

    2. When is Ohi Day in Greece?

    Ohi Day is October 28

    Each year, Greeks commemorate Ohi Day on October 28.

    3. Ohi Day Celebrations & Traditions

    Laying Wreaths

    Today, every year during the events on October 28, especially during school events, these songs are always heard. Other popular songs include “Women of Epirus” and the marches “Pindos,” “Renowned Macedonia,” and “Little Evzone,” especially in parades.

    The military and student parades that take place on this day have special solemnity, and in some cases wounded war veterans participate as well. However, due to their advanced age, there are fewer and fewer veterans participating each year.

    More Ohi Day celebrations include general flag decorations, wreath laying at various military memorials in the country, and of course, our National Anthem. Its name is “Hymn to Liberty” and it’s usually heard at the end of the events. As a show of respect, we must always stand when we hear it.

    Mussolini was satirized perhaps more than any other individual of that time. Musical revues, songs, and caricatures always depict him being weaker than the Greeks, who are usually shown wearing tsarouhia, the Greek traditional shoes.

    4. What Did Metaxas Really Say?

    Historically, Metaxas did not just reply with a simple “no.” Do you know how exactly he replied?

    Metaxas replied to the Italian ambassador in French, which is an official diplomatic language, and said Alors, c’est la guerre!, in other words “So, this means war!” This refusal went through the Greek press with the word “NO,” hence the name “Anniversary of NO.”

    5. Essential Ohi Day Vocabulary

    A Document

    Here’s the essential vocabulary you should know for Ohi Day in Greece!

    • Όχι. (Óhi.) — “No.”
    • επέτειος του «ΟΧΙ» (epétios tu OHI) — “Ohi Day”
    • Ιταλός (Italós) — “Italian”
    • Ιωάννης Μεταξάς (Ioánis Metaxás) — “Ioannis Metaxas”
    • σχολική παρέλαση (scholikí parélasi) — “school parade”
    • Σημαιοφόρος (simeofóros) — “standard-bearer”
    • στρατιωτική παρέλαση (stratiotikí parélasi) — “military parade”
    • Σημαία (siméa) — “flag”
    • Τελεσίγραφο (telesígrafo) — “ultimatum”
    • Σοφία Βέμπο (Sofía Vémbo) — “Sophia Vembo”
    • 28η Οκτωβρίου (ikostí ogdói Okrovríu) — “October 28”
    • ελληνοϊταλικός πόλεμος (elinoitalikós pólemos) — “Greco-Italian War”
    • Κατοχή (Katohí) — “occupation”
    • Έλληνας (Élinas) — “Greek”
    • Επέτειος (epétios) — “anniversary”
    • Πρωθυπουργός (prothipurgós) — “prime minister”
    • Γελοιογραφία (yeliografía) — “caricature”
    • κατάθεση στεφάνου (katáthesi stefánu) — “wreath laying”
    • επεκτατική πολιτική (epektatikí politikí) — “imperialistic policy”
    • Σατιρίζω (satirízo) — “satirize”
    • Σύμμαχοι (Símahi) — “Allies”
    • Άξονας (Áxonas) — “Axis”
    • Μπενίτο Μουσολίνι (Beníto Musolíni) — “Benito Mussolini”
    • πατριωτικό τραγούδι (patriotikó tragúdi) — “patriotic song”

    To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, alongside relevant images, check out our Ohi Day vocabulary list!

    GreekPod101: The Best Greek Language and Culture Source

    We hope you enjoyed learning about the Ohi Day celebration with us! Did you learn anything new? Does your country have any special days associated with WWII? We look forward to hearing from you, as always.

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    Dormition of the Mother of God Traditions in Greece

    Each year, when many countries are celebrating Assumption Day, Greece holds Dormition Day celebrations. This holiday, also called the day of the Dormition of the Theotokos, is when most of Greece remembers the death of the Virgin Mary and her subsequent resurrection three days later.

    If you’re asking yourself “What is Assumption Day, and how does it actually differ from Dormition?” consider this. While similar to the Assumption of Mary Day, Dormition has a greater focus on her death and resurrection, as opposed to only her assumption into Heaven.

    Learn all about the Dormition of the Mother of God with, and increase your understanding of Greece’s fascinating culture and tradition. After all, this is the first step in truly mastering a language!

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    1. What is the Dormition of the Mother of God?

    In the heart of the Greek summer, we celebrate with special solemnity the Dormition of the Mother of God, otherwise called Dekapendávgustos. In other words, the death of the Virgin Mary.

    This Marian holiday is an official public holiday and is a day of joy rather than mourning, because the Virgin Mary was resurrected just like Christ. This is why it’s also called the Easter of Summer.

    According to the religious tradition, the Virgin Mary was informed about her imminent death three days before by an angel. So she prepared herself, gave away all of her belongings, and prayed in the Mount of Olives. On the day of her death, not all of the Apostles were in Jerusalem, but a cloud took them and brought them close to her. After she died, the Apostles carried and buried her remains in the garden of Gethsemane. Three days later, the tomb was empty. The Virgin Mary was resurrected.

    Is the Assumption a holy day of obligation?

    Yes; the only exception is that if the date happens to fall on a Monday or Saturday, people aren’t expected to attend the mass for Assumption or Dormition.

    2. When is Dormition?

    August 15 Holiday Date

    Each year, the Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated in Greece on August 15. This is the same date as the very similar Assumption Feast Day.

    3. How is it Celebrated?

    A Group of People Celebrating

    Since August is mainly a month of vacations and most Greeks are out of the cities, the celebrations of the Fifteen of August are especially intense in the islands and provinces, most notably wherever there is a church devoted to the Virgin Mary.

    For example, every year, the church of Panagia Soumela in Imathia and the Ekatontapyliani in Paros “sink” from all the visitors. In Paros especially, a huge celebration is held, while dozens of traditional fishing boats with lit torches fill up the small picturesque port of Naousa.

    The largest pilgrimage happens at the church of Megalohari in Tinos. There, thousands of faithful believers go up the paved road to the church. On the right, a mat is laid for those who go up the road on their knees in order to fulfill their votive offerings to the Virgin Mary. If you ever find yourself there, you’ll see people with wounded knees and tears in their eyes, who continue to go on through the strength of their faith. The celebrations culminate in the majestic procession and litany of the miraculous Holy Icon of Megalohari.

    In Markopoulo of Cephalonia at the dome of the church, the harmless little snakes of the Virgin Mary appear. Greeks believe that the Virgin Mary transformed the nuns of an old monastery into snakes, to help them escape from the pirates.

    4. Name Days

    Do you know who has their name day on August 15?

    The most popular names are Maria, Marios, Panagiota, Panagiotis, and Despina—all names that are related to the Virgin Mary. Maria is by far the most popular female name in Greece, something that shows the deep respect Greeks have for the Virgin Mary.
    5. Vocabulary You Need to Know for Dormition

    Virgin Mary Icon

    Here’s some vocabulary you should know for the Dormition of the Mother of God holiday in Greece!

    • Εκκλησία (eklisía) — “church”
    • Κοίμηση της Θεοτόκου (Kímisi tis Theotóku) — “Dormition of the Mother of God”
    • Νηστεία (nistía) — “fasting”
    • θρησκευτική εικόνα (thriskeftikí ikóna) — “religious icon”
    • Παναγία (Panayía) — “Virgin Mary”
    • λιτάνευση της ιερής εικόνας (litánefsi tis ierís ikónas) — “procession of the holy icon”
    • Θαύμα (thávma) — “miracle”
    • εικόνα της Παναγίας (ikóna tis Panayías) — “icon of the Virgin Mary”
    • Πάσχα του καλοκαιριού (Pascha tu kalokeriú) — “Easter of the summer”
    • Λειτουργία (Lituryía) — “church service”
    • Πιστός (pistós) — “believer”
    • Δεκαπενταύγουστος (Dekapendávgustos) — “August 15”
    • Αργία (aryía) — “holiday”
    • Πανηγύρι (paniyíri) — “fete”
    • Τάμα (táma) — “votive offering”
    • Ιερέας (ieréas) — “priest”

    To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, check out our Greek Dormition of the Mother of God vocabulary list!

    Conclusion: How GreekPod101 Can Help You Master Greek

    We hope this lesson gave you a fresh perspective on the strong faith of the Greek people in both their daily life, and during their most important religious holidays. Does your country celebrate Dormition (or Assumption)? If so, are celebrations similar or very different? Let us know in the comments!

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    Pentecostal Holiday of Whit Monday in Greece

    The Pentecostal holiday of Whit Monday (also called “Monday of the Holy Spirit” or “Pentecost Monday”) is a vital celebration in Greek culture. The Greek Church actually separated the celebrations of this holiday from those of Pentecost, to ensure that its meaning and significance are always recognized despite commemorating the same events.

    By learning about the Whit Monday holiday, you’re also going to learn lots about Greek culture and values. Any successful language-learner can tell you that this is a fundamental step in actually mastering a language: Comprehending its culture.

    And at, we hope to make this learning experience enjoyable and informative!

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    1. What is Whit Monday in Greece?

    So, what is Pentecost Monday, as opposed to the Day of Pentecost?

    Although Monday of the Holy Spirit is based on the same events as the ones of the Day of Pentecost, the Greek Church ensured that the Holy Spirit’s splendor wasn’t forgotten as one of three parts of the Trinity. To do so, it decided to split the two holidays.

    This holiday celebrates the descension of the Holy Spirit onto earth, one of the most important aspects of the Christian faith.

    2. When is Monday of the Holy Spirit?

    Monday on a Calendar

    The date of Monday of the Holy Spirit varies each year, as it always takes place fifty days after Easter. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

    • 2019: June 17
    • 2020: June 8
    • 2021: June 21
    • 2022: June 13
    • 2023: June 5
    • 2024: June 24
    • 2025: June 9
    • 2026: June 1
    • 2027: June 21
    • 2028: June 5

    3. Reading Practice: Monday of the Holy Spirit Traditions

    Priest Reading from the Bible

    How is Monday of the Holy Spirit celebrated in Greece?

    This day is important to our Church because we “receive” the Holy Spirit, which always guides us to the greater good. Customs for Monday of the Holy Spirit vary from region to region. For example, on the island of Limnos, it’s custom to gather herbs like chamomile and sage for their therapeutic properties. In the olden days, people believed that this day was a “bad time,” meaning that bad things could happen, and for this reason, they were extremely careful. For example, people avoided going near the sea.

    Read the Greek text below to learn all about unique Greek traditions, from region to region, for the Whit Monday holiday. You can find the English translation directly below it.

    Στη Σμίξη των Γρεβενών οι γυναίκες μοιράζουν πίτες, γλυκά και εφτάζυμο ψωμί με μυρωδικά. Στην Αλιμπίστα Αιτωλοακαρνανίας στήνεται πρωινό πανηγύρι. Μετά τη Θεία Λειτουργία, όλοι σχηματίζουν ουρά μπροστά από τον πλανόδιο χασάπη, ο οποίος κόβει ψητά αρνιά με τον μπαλτά. Πολλοί φέρνουν πίτες, τυριά και άλλα φαγητά για να συμπληρώσουν το γεύμα. Οι ρίζες του πανηγυριού αυτού χάνονται στον χρόνο και πολλοί δεν αποκλείουν το έθιμο αυτό να αποτελεί εξέλιξη ενός αρχαίου εθίμου, που σχετίζεται με την ανατολή του ηλίου και τη λατρεία του θεού Απόλλωνα.

    Στον Βώλακα Δράμας το πρωί, νέοι με στολισμένα άλογα και μουλάρια ξεκινάνε για το ξωκλήσι του Αγίου Πνεύματος από την πλατεία του χωριού, ανεβαίνοντας το όρος «Φαλακρό». Ακολουθεί δοξολογία και πανηγύρι, όπου τρώνε το «κουρμπάνι», ένα παραδοσιακό φαγητό από κατσικάκι βραστό με χορταρικά. Έπειτα όλοι επιστρέφουν στην πλατεία του χωριού με τον ιερέα πάνω σε άλογο και την εικόνα μπροστά. Ακολουθούν γυναίκες με παραδοσιακά κρατώντας τα «δάκρυα της Παναγίας», ένα φυτό της περιοχής, και οι αναβάτες, οι οποίοι κάνουν επιδείξεις και αργότερα αλογοδρομίες.

    Για πολλούς η γιορτή του Αγίου Πνεύματος σημαίνει μόνο ένα πράγμα; τριήμερο! Επειδή η μέρα αυτή είναι αργία για τους δημοσίους υπαλλήλους και τα σχολεία, πολλοί βρίσκουν την ευκαιρία για τριήμερες αποδράσεις ή απλά για ξεκούραση.

    In Smiksi of Grevena, women hand out pies, sweets, and chickpea pulp bread with herbs. In Alibista of Aetolia-Acarnania, a morning festival is organized. After the Divine Liturgy, everyone waits in line for the itinerant butcher, who carves roasted lamb with a cleaver. Many people bring pies, cheeses, and other foods to complement the meal. Time has shrouded the origins of this festival, and many people do not exclude the chance that this custom might be the development of an ancient custom that is related to the rise of the sun and the worship of god Apollo.

    In Volakas of Drama in the morning, young people with decorated horses and mules start heading for the chapel of the Holy Spirit from the square of the village, by climbing Falakro Mountain. Praising hymns and a feast follow, where they eat the kourbani, a traditional food made from boiled young goat with greens. Later, everyone returns to the square of the village with the priest on a horse and the icon in the front. Women holding the “tears of the Virgin Mary,” a plant from the region, and wearing traditional clothing follow him, along with the jockeys, who perform demonstrations and later do horse races.

    For many, the holiday of the Holy Spirit means only one thing: A three-day weekend! Because this day is a holiday for civil servants and schools, many people take the opportunity to have three-day long getaways or simply to rest.

    4. The Holy Spirit’s Re-appearance

    Do you know when and in what form the Holy Spirit re-appeared on Earth?

    On the holiday of Epiphany, we saw the Holy Spirit appearing on Earth in the form of a dove, during the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River by
    St. John the Baptist.

    5. Useful Vocabulary for Whit Monday in Greece

    Depiction of Pentecost

    Here’s the most important vocabulary you should know for Monday of the Holy Spirit in Greece!

    • Εκκλησία (eklisía) — “Church”
    • Πεντηκοστή (Pendikostí) — “Pentecost”
    • Άγιο Πνεύμα (Ayio Pnévma) — “Holy Spirit”
    • Δευτέρα του Αγίου Πνεύματος (Deftéra tu Ayíu Pnévmatos) — “Monday of the Holy Spirit”
    • εορταστική εκδήλωση (eortastikí ekdílosi) — “Festivity”
    • Αργία (aryía) — “Holiday”
    • Αγία Τριάδα (Ayía Triáda) — “Holy Trinity”
    • Βότανο (vótano) — “Herb”
    • Πανηγύρι (paniyíri) — “Fete”
    • Τριήμερο (triímero) — “Three-day holiday”
    • Οργανοπαίχτης (organopéhtis) — “Instrumentalist”
    • Δευτέρα (Deftéra) — “Monday”
    • δημοτικός χορός (dimotikós horós) — “Folk dance”
    • Ιερέας (ieréas) — “Priest”
    • δημοτικό τραγούδι (dimotikó tragúdi) — “Folk song”
    • Θεία Λειτουργία (Thía Lituryía) — “Divine Liturgy”

    To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, check out our Monday of the Holy Spirit vocabulary list. Here, each word is listed alongside an audio file of its pronunciation and a relevant image.


    What do you think about the Monday of Holy of the Spirit in Greece? Do you celebrate this holiday in your own country? Let us know in the comments; we always love to hear from you!

    To learn more about Greek culture and the language, visit us at We provide practical learning tools for every learner, and aim to make the learning process both fun and informative! Read more insightful blog posts, study up on your vocabulary, and chat with fellow Greek learners on our community forums! You can also upgrade to a Premium Plus account to learn Greek with our MyTeacher program, which offers you one-on-one and personalized teaching with your own teacher.

    Know that your hard work in learning Greek will pay off, and you’ll be speaking like a native before you know it! And GreekPod101 will be with you for each step of your language-learning journey.

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    Protomagia: Labor Day in Greece

    May Day (otherwise known as Labor Day, or Labor Day weekend in some places) has its roots in antiquity.

    Back then, the Greeks, as well as many other people of Europe, celebrated the final victory of spring against winter, something that would bring fertility and life to nature and, by extension, to humans.

    The word “May” itself is believed to have originated from the Roman goddess Maia, who took her name from Maia, one of the Pleiades. The word maia back then meant wet nurse and mother. The celebrations of antiquity were, of course, altered over time, but they survive today as simple folk traditions.

    Taking this historical context and examining it in light of more recent events and current traditions, you’ll uncover so much about Greece’s culture. Let show you everything you need to know about May 1 Day in Greece!

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    1. What is Labor Day?

    May 1, otherwise known as Protomayá (“May Day”), is a holiday dedicated to spring and the flowers. It’s also called International Workers’ Day in memory of the uprising of the workers of Chicago on May 1886, who were demanding an eight-hour working schedule and better working conditions.

    For the labor unions, this is a day to strike, while for the rest it’s simply a public holiday. Thus, Labor Day’s meaning varies based on who you ask and who’s celebrating. Regardless, May Day in Greece is a day of historical significance and modern-day fun.

    2. When is Labor Day?

    The First of May

    Each year, May 1st Day is celebrated on—May 1st! The perfect time of year to collect Greek flowers and observe the following Greek customs for May Day.

    3. How is Labor Day Celebrated?

    People Leaping Through Fire

    How is May 1 celebrated in Greece? Read the Greek text below (and find the English translation directly below it) to learn about Greek customs during Protomagia.

    Στην Ελλάδα το πιο γνωστό έθιμο της Πρωτομαγιάς είναι το πρωτομαγιάτικο στεφάνι. Πολλοί εκμεταλλεύονται την αργία και πηγαίνουν εκδρομές στην ύπαιθρο για να μαζέψουν αγριολούλουδα και πρασινάδες, που θα πλέξουν σε στεφάνι και θα κρεμάσουν στις πόρτες τους απ’ έξω. Το έθιμο αυτό φέρνει τους ανθρώπους πιο κοντά στη φύση, ακόμα και όσους ζουν στις πόλεις. Το στεφάνι ξεραίνεται και παραμένει στις πόρτες ως τη γιορτή του Αϊ-Γιαννιού, όπου στην επαρχία το καίνε στις φωτιές που ανάβουν.

    Σε πολλές περιοχές ο Μάης ενσαρκώνεται στο «Μαγιόπουλο». Στο έθιμο αυτό ένα παιδί στολισμένο με λουλούδια τριγυρνάει στους δρόμους του χωριού μαζί με συνοδεία, και όλοι χορεύουν και τραγουδάνε τραγούδια για τον Μάη. Στη Ναύπακτο το Μαγιόπουλο συνοδεύεται από γέρους φουστανελάδες που κρατούν κουδούνια στολισμένα με ανθισμένη ιτιά. Το έθιμο αυτό, με ελάχιστες παραλλαγές, λέγεται «πιπεριά» στη βόρεια Εύβοια. Από τα χαράματα οι νέες του χωριού σκεπάζουν το σώμα μιας λυγερόκορμης κοπέλας με λουλούδια και φτέρες. Της κρεμάνε και ένα κουδούνι και αυτή είναι… η «πιπεριά».

    Σε μερικά μέρη όλοι καταβρέχουν την «πιπεριά» και τραγουδάνε παρακαλώντας για βροχή, ενώ εκείνη υποκλίνεται σε όσους τη ραντίζουν. Λένε πως πολλές φορές μετά το γύρισμα της «πιπεριάς» στους δρόμους του χωριού, βρέχει!

    In Greece, the most well-known tradition of May Day is the May Day wreath. Many people take advantage of this holiday and go on field trips in the countryside to collect wild flowers and greenery, which they will then weave into a wreath that they hang outside their doors. This tradition brings people closer to nature, even those who live in the cities. The wreath dries up and remains on the doors until the celebration of St. John, where in the province it is burned in the fires that people ignite.

    In many regions, May is personified with the May child. In this tradition, a child decorated with flowers wanders around the streets of the village with some escorts, and everyone dances and sings songs about May. In Nafpaktos, the May child is accompanied by elderly men who wear fustanela skirts and hold bells decorated with willow tree blossoms. This tradition, with a few variations, is called piperiá (“pepper tree”) in north Euboea. From the crack of dawn, the young girls of the village cover the body of a tall and beautiful young girl with flowers and ferns. They also hang a bell on her, making her piperiá.

    In some places, everyone hoses down piperiá and sings pleas for rain, while she bows to those who sprinkle her. It’s said that very often after the stroll of piperiá on the streets of the village, it rains!

    4. Additional Information

    Do you know when the first May Day protest in Greece was?

    It was in 1892 from the Central Socialist Association of Kallergis. Then another one followed the year after, with over 2,000 workers demanding an eight-hour working schedule, Sunday as a day off, and public health insurance for the victims of labor accidents. Nowadays on Protomagia, Greece holds protests, with the largest ones being in the center of Athens.

    5. Must-know Vocab

    Single White Flower

    Here’s some vocabulary you should know for May 1st Day in Greece!

    • Εργάτης (ergátis) — “worker”
    • Άνοιξη (ánixi) — “spring”
    • Μάιος (Máios) — “May”
    • Λουλούδι (lulúdi) — “flower”
    • Αργία (aryía) — “holiday”
    • εργατική Πρωτομαγιά (ergatikí Protomayá) — “Labor Day”
    • Εργαζόμενος (ergazómenos) — “employee”
    • εργατική επανάσταση (ergatikí epanástasi) — “workers’ revolution”
    • Επανάσταση (epanástasi) — “revolution”
    • πρωτομαγιάτικο στεφάνι (protomayiátiko stefáni) — “May 1st Day wreath”
    • Πρωτομαγιά (Protomayá) — “May 1st Day”
    • φτιάχνω στεφάνι (ftiáhno stefáni) — “make wreath”
    • Μαγιόξυλο (mayóxilo) — “cypress branch used on May 1st Day”
    • εργατικό σωματείο (ergatikó somatío) — “labor union”
    • το πήδημα της φωτιάς (to pídima tis fotiás) — “leaping through fire”
    • Προλεταριάτο (proletariáto) — “proletariat”
    • αμίλητο νερό (amílito neró) — “silent water”
    • εργατική τάξη (ergatikí táxi) — “working class”
    • Απεργία (aperyía) — “strike”

    To hear the pronunciation of each word, check out our May 1st Day vocabulary list, where you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio file of its pronunciation.


    As you can see, May 1 is a day of great celebration across Greece, both rooted in history and blossoming in light of the modern world. What do you think about Greece’s celebration of May 1? Does your country have similar (or very different) celebrations? Let us know in the comments!

    To learn more about the culture of Greece and the Greek language, visit us at We offer many tools to aid you in your language-learning journey, such insightful blog posts, an online community forum, and free vocabulary lists to expand your inner dictionary! You can also take advantage of our MyTeacher program to learn Greek with your own personal teacher.

    Know that your studying and practice will pay off, and you’ll soon be speaking Greek—and talking about its culture—like a native! Best wishes in your language-learning journey!

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    Kathari Deftera: How to Celebrate Clean Monday in Greece

    Clean Monday (also known as Kathari Deftera or Καθαρά Δευτέρα) is a religious holiday in Greece, and marks the beginning of Lent. This is a holiday of great importance in the country, is a strong representation of what Christianity looks like in Greece, and provides a lot of important cultural insight.

    Let guide you through all the facets of Ash Monday. This way, you can learn the Greek language in context, and gain much knowledge concerning the country and its people. Let’s get started!

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    1. What is Clean Monday in Greece?

    Clean Monday is a particularly popular celebration. It is called Clean because on this day the Lent fast that cleanses the Christians spiritually and physically begins, while it is also the end of the frenzied celebrations of the Triodion. Clean Monday is a public holiday, so families take the opportunity to gather and celebrate the beginning of Lent together, 48 days before Easter.

    2. When is Clean Monday?

    Family Flying Kite in Field

    The date of Clean Monday in Greece differs each year. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years:

    • 2019: March 11
    • 2020: March 2
    • 2021: March 15
    • 2022: March 7
    • 2023: February 27
    • 2024: March 18
    • 2025: March 3
    • 2026: February 23
    • 2027: March 15
    • 2028: February 28

    3. Reading Practice: How is Clean Monday Celebrated?

    Deep-Fried Calamari Dish

    Read the Greek text below to learn how Greeks celebrate Clean Monday! You can find the English translation directly below it.
    Για τους περισσότερους η Καθαρά Δευτέρα σημαίνει εκδρομές στην ύπαιθρο, πέταγμα χαρταετού, παραδοσιακή μουσική και φαγοπότι με νηστίσιμα φαγητά όπως η λαγάνα, ο ταραμάς, ο χαλβάς, η φασολάδα και τα καλαμαράκια. Η λαγάνα είναι ένα είδος επίπεδου άζυμου ψωμιού πασπαλισμένο με σουσάμι. Όσον αφορά τους χαρταετούς, παλιότερα οι άνθρωποι τους κατασκεύαζαν μόνοι τους με καλάμια και χαρτί. Επειδή όμως αυτό θέλει μαστοριά στο ζύγισμα για να μπορέσει να πετάξει ο χαρταετός, σήμερα οι περισσότεροι αγοράζουν έτοιμους. Τα έθιμα της καθαροδευτεριάτικης αυτής εξόδου λέγονται «κούλουμα».

    Σε πολλές περιοχές της Ελλάδας τα κούλουμα γιορτάζονται με διαφορετικούς τρόπους. Για παράδειγμα στο Γαλαξίδι η Καθαρά Δευτέρα μόνο «καθαρή» δεν είναι, καθώς από το μεσημέρι και μετά λαμβάνουν χώρα τα διάσημα «αλευρομουτζουρώματα». Εκατοντάδες κάτοικοι και επισκέπτες συγκεντρώνονται στο λιμάνι όπου και διεξάγεται ένας απίστευτος πόλεμος με τόνους από αλεύρι, φούμο και λουλάκι. Τα κυνηγητά και τα πειράγματα συνεχίζονται μέχρι το σούρουπο. Το έθιμο αυτό είναι αρκετά διασκεδαστικό, αρκεί να τηρούνται οι απαραίτητες προφυλάξεις όπως η χρήση προστατευτικών γυαλιών, μάσκας και κατάλληλων ρούχων.

    Πολλά έθιμα αυτή την ημέρα αναβιώνουν το θέμα του γάμου. «Του Κουτρούλη ο Γάμος» στη Μεθώνη ήταν ένας πραγματικός γάμος που άφησε εποχή τον 14ο αιώνα. Στη Θήβα ο «Βλάχικος γάμος», που έχει ήδη ξεκινήσει από την Τσικνοπέμπτη, κορυφώνεται με το ξύρισμα του γαμπρού και το στόλισμα της νύφης, η οποία στη πραγματικότητα είναι άντρας! Γενικά σ’ όλη την Ελλάδα πολλοί δήμοι προσφέρουν δωρεάν λαγάνες, φασολάδα, χαλβά και ελιές, όπως κάνει κάθε χρόνο ο Δήμος Αθηναίων στον Λόφο Φιλοπάππου και στο Άλσος Βεΐκου.

    Η δωρεάν προσφορά φαγητού στις καθαροδευτεριάτικες εκδηλώσεις προσελκύει κάθε χρόνο μεγάλο αριθμό κόσμου, με αποτέλεσμα να δημιουργούνται τεράστιες ουρές στους πάγκους και να εξαντλούνται οι μερίδες μέσα σε πολύ λίγη ώρα.
    For most people, Clean Monday means excursions in the countryside, flying a kite, traditional music, and a feast with fasting foods such as lagana bread, taramas (salted and cured cod roe), halva, bean soup, and squid. Lagana is a type of flat unleavened bread sprinkled with sesame seeds. Regarding the kites, in the old days, people used to make them by themselves with reeds and paper. But because this requires good craftsmanship in the weighting so that the kite can fly, today most people buy ready-made ones. The customs of this Clean Monday outing are called koulouma.

    In many areas of Greece, koulouma are celebrated in different ways. For example in Galaxidi, Clean Monday is anything but clean, as from noon and beyond, the famous flour fights take place. Hundreds of residents and visitors gather at the harbor, where an incredible war is performed with tons of flour, soot, and indigo. All the chasing and teasing continues until dusk. This custom is quite fun, as long as the necessary precautions are taken, such as the use of protective goggles, a mask, and suitable clothing.

    Many traditions on this day revive the concept of marriage. Koutrouli’s wedding in Methoni was a real marriage that made history in the 14th century. In Thebes the Vlach wedding, which has already started from Fat Thursday, culminates with the shaving of the groom and the dressing of the bride, who in reality is a man! Generally all over Greece, many municipalities offer free lagana bread, bean soup, halva, and olives, just like the municipality of Athens does every year on the Filopappou Hill and the Veikou Park.

    The offer of free food during the festivities of Clean Monday attracts a large number of people every year, resulting in long queues at the stalls and the depletion of the portions within a very short time.

    4. Additional Information

    There is also another variation on why we characterize this day as Clean. Do you know which one it is?

    The other version is that Clean Monday was named this way because in the old days the housewives used to wash their cooking utensils all day long after the feast of the carnival. Clean Monday meals may be delicious, but you can imagine the mess they leave behind on cookware!

    5. Must-know Vocab

    Path in the Countryside

    Here’s some vocabulary you should know to celebrate Clean Monday in Greece!

    • Εξοχή (exohí) — “countryside”
    • Νηστεία (nistía) — “fasting”
    • νηστίσιμο φαγητό (nistísimo fayitó) — “Lenten meal”
    • πέταγμα χαρταετού (pétagma hartaetú) — “kite flying
    • Χαρταετός (hartaetós) — “kite”
    • καθαροδευτεριάτικη έξοδος (katharodefteriátiki éxodos) — “Clean Monday outing”
    • Διασκέδαση (diaskédasi) — “fun”
    • Σαρακοστή (Sarakostí) — “Great Lent”
    • Φασολάδα (fasoláda) — “Greek bean soup”
    • Κούλουμα (kúluma) — “celebration of Clean Monday”
    • Λαγάνα (lagána) — “Clean Monday bread”
    • Χαλβάς (halvás) — “halva”
    • Αλευρομουτζούρωμα (alevromudjúroma) — “flour fight” (also known as the flour war)
    • Λουλάκι (luláki) — “indigo”
    • Ύπαιθρος (ípethros) — “countryside”
    • καλαμαράκια τηγανητά (kalamarákia tiganitá) — “deep fried calamari”
    • Χορός (horós) — “dance”
    • Ταραμάς (taramás) — “preserved fish roe
    • Ταραμοσαλάτα (taramosaláta) — “fish roe dip”

    To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, check out our Greek Clean Monday vocabulary list. Here you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio of its pronunciation.


    Now you know more about Clean Monday in Greece. What do you think of this holiday? Is there a similar celebration in your own country? Let us know in the comments!

    To learn even more about Greek culture and the language, visit us at! We offer an array of insightful blog posts, free vocabulary lists, and even an online community to discuss lessons with fellow Greek learners! You can also check out our MyTeacher program if you’re interested in pursuing a one-on-one learning experience with your own personal Greek teacher.

    We hope you enjoyed learning about Greek Clean Monday and that you took away something valuable from this lesson. Know that all of your studying and hard work will pay off, and you’ll be speaking like a Greek native before you know it!

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