Celebrate Feast Of The Assumption Of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Several islands celebrate the holiday in unique ways.

The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Assumption Day, in Greece is a holiday which celebrates the Virgin Mary’s death and assumption into Heaven. As it is one of the most important holidays in the country, several islands celebrate it in unique ways. Here is an overview of Assumption Day and the associated traditions:

What is Assumption Day?

Assumption Day
Photo by Josh Miller on Unsplash

Celebrated annually on Aug. 15, Assumption Day commemorates the Virgin Mary’s death and assumption. Observed as a national holiday in Greece, many towns commemorate the day by attending mass. That said, various islands also honor the day in one-of-a-kind ways, including: attending a procession of an icon of the Virgin Mary, gathering to observe and touch snakes, and watching a firework show.

The holiday also marks the traditional start of summer vacations in Greece, as well as in Italy and Spain, and is referred to as the “Easter of the Summer” by some Greeks.

Where can one celebrate Assumption Day?

Assumption of Mary
The Assumption of Mary. Image by Dorothée QUENNESSON from Pixabay

On the island of Tinos, thousands of people flock to Panagia Evangelistria, a 19th-century church, home to an icon of the Virgin Mary. Although the icon was found in 1823, it dates back to the 7th century. It was found when Pelagia, a saint, informed the bishop of Tinos she was dreaming of the Virgin Mary, who was asking her to find the icon. After more than a year, the icon was discovered, along with the remains of an early-Byzantine era church and the ancient temple of Dionysus.

Visitors to the church take part in a procession of the icon, while some climb to the church’s front porch on their knees. The festivities last until Aug. 23 and include a special service before the procession.

In the town of Kefalonia, hundreds of snakes appear in the yard of Panagia Lagouvarda, a church with history dating back to the 12th-13th century. Legend has it that nuns from the convent asked the Virgin Mary to save them from attacking pirates. She turned them into snakes, which prevented the pirates from harming them.

Assumption Day
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Travelers come to see and touch the snakes that first appear around Aug. 6 then disappear on Aug. 15. One can also head to the church and take part in a celebration involving music, dancing and food. Interestingly, locals consider it to be bad luck if the snakes do not appear. As evidence for their claim, some point to 1940, a year during which World War II took place, and in 1953, when the Ionian earthquake occurred. Both times when the snakes did not appear.

In the village of Paros, Assumption Day festivities begin on Aug. 13 and involve a litany of an icon of the Virgin Mary. Additionally, people celebrating the holiday take part in various events in the town, including several experiences which occur at night. One can enjoy a parade of fishing boats in the bay or a firework show that creates a picturesque sight when combined with the village’s twinkling lights.

Visitors to the town can also revel in the sound of local music and the sight of traditional dance groups on the seaside roads.

Ray Lewis

Content Editor Associate

Originally from New Jersey, Ray developed a passion for traveling through his adventures in Europe. He created unforgettable memories in Greece and Italy, but is looking to explore more countries in different parts of the world as well.

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