Karpathos traditional festivals and cultural events

As in all parts of Greece, in Karpathos there are many festivals and events, mainly of a religious nature.

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1. “Olympitiko”

Since 2020 it has been recorded as a distinctive element in the Greek National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO. It is the festival for the Assumption of Virgin Mary and it is held on the main square of Olympos. Men sit down around a big table which is place in front of the church. They wear a piece of basil on the lapel of their jacket. The first music track is Kato choros (slow track). The feast continues with bagpipe, lute and lyre. After sundown men start to dance and sometime later women accompany them wearing traditional costumes.

2. Festival of Saint John the Baptist

It is held in Agios Ioannis (Saint John) church in Lakki, inside the cave of the Vrykous cape, for two days and two nights. Locals arrive on the day before either on foot (walking through a path for one and a half hour) from Avlona or by boat from Diafani. The start of the festive is done with “kathisto” (sitting) feast and “sirmatiko” song. They dance all night and just before sunrise they sleep on the ground outside the cave. The next morning they attend the church service. After the service peaces of bread, soup with chickpeas, loukoumades with honey and slices of watermelon are served to people and they continue the feast until the evening.

3. Clean Day (Halloween) in Othos

It starts at the coffee shop of the village. People sing “mantinades” (art of musical declamation (recitative) in form of a narrative or dialogue, sung in the rhythm of accompanying music) dedicated to the died relatives. When joyful songs start masked men appear. The feast is transferred to Megaro and the “Court of Unethical Deeds” is held. Men dressed as women bring other men before the judge with various satirical accusations. Depending on the talent of the judge and the preparation of the accusers and defendants, very spirited dialogues are negotiated. In the end, no one is acquitted. Eventually they are all sentenced to a fine that they actually pay. The festival is continued with the “Peper dance” with songs and mantinades of profane and sexual content.

4. Easter in Olympos

Greek Orthodox Easter is mostly the same in every part of Greece. The most impressive differences in Karpathos are on Holy Friday and Easter Monday.

On Holy Tuesday night women in Olympos prepare Holy Table. They place fresh flowers and photographs of their diseased relatives that died that year. On the afternoon of Great Friday, During Matins, Lamentations are sung before the Epitaphy as at the tomb of Christ, while all hold lighted candles. Near the end of Matins, during the Great Doxology, a solemn procession with the Epitaphy is held, with bells ringing the funeral toll, commemorating the burial procession of Christ. After the return of Epitaphy to the church women unfold their hair and they start to sing dirges.

On Easter Monday women cook cakes and take them to the graveyard. They place them on the graves for their dead loved ones.

You can read more information in our article Get to know Easter traditions of Karpathos.

5. Wine festival in Lastos

Every year the wine festival is held in Lastos. You will taste the wine made by the local wineries, the “wine of Adam”, as they call it. You can read more information about local wines in the article Traditional products of Karpathos. There are traditional songs with lyre, lute and the bagpipe and mantinades.

6. Wedding in Olympos

Every wedding in Karpathos is very special. Preparations last a hole week and the feast lasts three days. The bride is accompanied on her way to the church by music instruments and songs. A very special part of the wedding is “chrisoma”. Relatives fasten gold jewellery and money on the wedding dress.

7. Feast of Gilla

This festival comes from Anatolia and it is held on Sunday of the Feast of Orthodoxy since 1840. The name “Gilla” comes from the word “neogillos” (first teeth of the child). The day before wives that married the same year of gave birth prepare and bake breads in oval shape. They decorate them with almonds, nuts and various shapes from the same dough. After the church service all gather in Megaro and those who have “Gilla” offer wine and snacks.

8. Efta

Efta in Greek means “seven”. Seven days after a baby is born people ask of the three Fates to bring good luck to the newborn infant! Relatives and friends of the newborn’s family gather at his home to celebrate its arrival. They bring with them sweets and gifts (mostly gold jewelry) for the baby. The midwife in the past, the mother or grandmother now, will wrap the infant with a silk sheet and put on the best shirt of the father (if it is a boy) or mother (if it is a girl). Then, she places the baby on a large table in the middle of the room and visitors place the gifts all around it. Two first-daughter (from the same family) put the newborn in a silk sheet and, holding it by both ends, move the infant semicircularly (“lullaby”) and sing to it improvised mantinades. Τhe mother or grandmother lights seven small candles that are placed in a basin or large plate with honey. Meanwhile in the kitchen or in another room the characteristic sweet of the feast, the well-known “alevra” (flour and various spices mixed with hot water) is prepared. This sweet is served to the visitors with honey.

Karpathos has a very large and rich folk culture and still maintains its traditions with great dedication. Learn more about its history in the article History of Karpathos island – the short version.

Don’t forget to make your reservation at Akropolis Village on time.

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