The date of 15 August, or Dekapentavgoustos in Greek, is a unique day for the Orthodox Church, celebrated with liturgies and festivals known as panigyria countrywide.
The Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Κοίμησις Θεοτόκου) is the biggest day on the Orthodox summer calendar for the diaspora as well, often referred to as Small Easter.
It is devoted to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, while those named Panagiotis, Despoina, Maria and Panagiota celebrate their nameday on the same day.
The Megalohari (Great Grace) Church of Tinos island and the Panagia Soumela Monastery in northern Greece draw in most of the country’s faithful this time of the year.
Every location in Greece has its own Virgin Mary church, hence its own specific ritual and gathering. Ekatontapiliani, Kosmosotira, Xozoviotisa and Spiliani are just some of the names that this religious tradition has given to the churches of the Virgin Mary across Greece.
The temples become the focal attraction for hundreds of locals and visitors who gather to adore the icon of the Virgin Mary and walk in processions in her honour.
In certain places, the holiday lasts for three days, involving a holy procession of the Virgin and special prayers, culminating in an offering of local traditional foods and dances in the central town squares.
In contrast to the last two weeks of August, when these celebrations take place, in the first two weeks of August the religious devote themselves to fasting and meditation in preparation of the August 15 celebration in honour of Mary.