The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on 15 August. This is a joyful celebration because it commemorates Mary’s reunion with Jesus in heaven. This public holiday is celebrated all over Greece with processions, feasts and relaxation with family.
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Members of the Greek Orthodox Church believe that the Virgin Mary’s body and soul were taken up to heaven after her death. This event is known as the Assumption or Dormition of the Virgin Mary.
The feast was originally known as the Memory of Mary. It was celebrated in Jerusalem in the fourth century. The people of Rome celebrated the feast in the seventh century and referred to it as the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God. The name of the feast was later changed to the Assumption.
An icon of Mary is carried during the processions. In Kavala in northern Greece a band plays during the procession. People gather in a church courtyard to dance after the procession. Bells are rung during the procession on the island of Patmos. Horseback riders accompany an icon that was made in 1603 as it carried in the procession in the village of Mikrokastro.
Some devout Greek Christians undergo physical hardships before they begin their celebrations. Many members of the Greek Orthodox Church fast for two weeks before Assumption Day.
Some of those who visit the church on the island of Tinos go up the hill to the church on their knees. Others travel 25 kilometres on foot between the towns of Mytilene and Agiassos. They sleep outside in the courtyard of the church in Agiassos. The icon of Mary is carried around the church. The celebration in Agiassos ends with music and dancing in the town square.