By THANASSIS STAVRAKIS
KEA, Greece (AP) — Mixing the spiritual with the material, mid-August marks the height of the Greek summer season that draws throngs of city dwellers to their ancestral villages.
The August 15 feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is a major religious event coupled with festivals, known as “panigiria”, which can last more than a day with music, dancing and music. food, as street vendor stalls sell everything from toys to clothes.
Greece has other important religious holidays, but August 15 is one of the most intense. It also feels like soon after, the summer holidays will end, everyone will return to the cities, and the long, hard work of daily life will begin. So people seem to be celebrating hard enough that the memories will last through the dreary winter months ahead.
The faithful flock to well-known churches or monasteries. On the island of Tinos, the main place of pilgrimage, the most determined crawl on their knees to the church as a sign of piety and, often, in the hope of miraculous healing or other divine intercession.
Monday’s Dormition celebration was the first in three years without the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, and people turned out in droves.
Churches filled as people expressed relief at finally being able to attend open events, but also fear further restrictions will be imposed once the summer is over.
“People relaxed; now, of course, only God knows (what’s next), but I think it was about time. People can’t take it anymore,” Father Lefteris, a priest at Panagia Kastriani Church on Kea Island, also known as Tzia, told The Associated Press.
Its service was crowded with people and the island, near Athens, full to bursting with cars of vacationers who had come from the Greek capital by ferry.
On the mainland, the festivities in Hassia, on the northern outskirts of Athens, were also exceptionally well attended – both the religious service at the Church of the Dormition and the colorful village bazaar. Hassia is also famous for its traditional eating places, and the gluttonous feast of tender meat was for many the highlight of their stay there.
Demetris Nellas contributed to this report from Athens.