Assumption Day 2018 and 2019
The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15. 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 traditional dances.
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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. One tale of the event states that St. Thomas the Apostle looked in Mary’s grave a short time after her death and found it empty.
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 Greeks 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.
People on the island of Crete celebrate by dancing all night long, and Greeks on the island of Karpathos take part in slow dances.
The sea surrounding Greece plays a part in some of the celebrations. There are sailing races near the island of Koufonisia after a feast. Boats filled with people dressed in pirate costumes land on the island of Paros and perform traditional dances. Parts of the church here date back to 326. The celebrations on Paros begin with a procession. A party with music, local food and wine takes place after the procession. People take boats into the sea off the island of Syros. They set fireworks off from the boats and then return to the island for a celebration. Dancing and drinking are part of this celebration.
Foods served at Assumption Day celebrations include rice, fish soup, beef and potatoes.
People who want a quiet place to celebrate the holiday can visit Athens. Many Greeks return to their hometowns to celebrate, so Athens is relatively quiet.
Some Assumption Day celebrations last for two or three days. People begin the celebration on the island of Skiathos by singing hymns on the evening of August 14. Some celebrations in Ioannina in western Greece last for three days. Food, wine and traditional dances are part of these celebrations. People on the island of Tinos celebrate from August 15 to August 23.