One thing that is engraved deeply in the hearts of the Greeks is their religious faith, and their love and respect for the church and the local saints. Every church has a certain day when the Saint it is dedicated to is commemorated and celebrated.
On the eve of that day, the icon depicting the Saint is paraded around the village or town, followed by a procession and usually a marching band, and after its end, a large feast commences.
Food and wine are in abundance, and so are traditional music and dances. These feasts, the “panigyria” are the highlight of every village, an annual centerpiece event.
In Megalochori, the church of Agioi Anargyroi celebrated its nameday on July 1st; the cobblestoned courtyard and the church’s inside are decorated with fragrant flowers, people flood in to light a candle and pay their respects, the litany is proceeded by the marching band and everyone is treated with homemade kokkinisto, a meat and potato casserole with a scrumptious tomato sauce or bean soup, olives and fresh, homemade bread.
The locals treat the church as their second home, and they take great pride in cooking for its visitors. This is a great opportunity for every visitor to taste the authentic Santorini, the food the locals eat at home, simple, homemade and delicious.
Every year, the panigyria of the island attract visitors and locals alike, and it would be a misfortune to pass upon a chance to see one first hand.
The main religious feasts of Santorini, apart from the Agioi Anargyroi of Megalochori, are namely the Saint Epiphanius’ in Akrotiri on May 12th,
the Prophet Elias in Pyrgos on July 20th, also celebrated in the Chapel of Prophet Elias in Imerovigli,
the Agioi Efta Paides of Ephesus (the Holy Seven Youths of Ephesus) on August 4th, in a seaside cave of the caldera somewhere between Oia and Imerovigli,
the Metamorfosi Sotiros (Transformation of Christ) in Pyrgos on August 6th
the Assumption Of Mary (Koimisi Theotokou) on August 15th – this is the most important religious feast of the summer, celebrated in Panagia Episkopi, but also almost all villages on Santorini.
On august 29th, the feast of Saint John takes place in Perissa,
and on the 24th of September the one of Panagia Myrtidiotissa in Kamari, whereas the most significant panigyri on Santorini is probably the last one of the summer,
the celebration of Saint Matrona on October 20th, in Finikia.
Every panigyri has its own signature dish, its own traditions and its own little wonders to admire.
Many visitors also enjoy partaking in the traditonal dancing. I would definitely recommend to try and visit them all!