Celebrations in Skiathos
January 1st (New Year): Similar to all Greek regions, so in Skiathos, the new year's first day is dedicated to St. Vasilios, the favorite Saint of all children. According to tradition, he brings gifts to children who were kind the past year. After year's change, in every house, family gather around the table with the special cake called "vasilopita". The cake's recipe varies from house to house, but a small coin ("flouri") must be hidden inside every vasilopita. Each family member or visitor will receive a piece of the cake and the founder of the coin is considered to have good luck and a happy year. When the Man of the house cuts the cake, he must always remember to cut a piece dedicated to St. Vasilios, a piece dedicated to Jesus Christ and a piece for the house. January 1st is a public holiday in all Greece.
January 6th (Epiphany): In Epiphany, the locals gather in the old port where the "sanctification of waters" ceremony takes place. During the ceremony, the priest throws the cross into the water and then young men and women in swim suits jump into the water to pull out the cross defying the icy water. It is considered a great honor and blessing for the person that retrieves the cross out of the water and the priest chants a personal blessing for him. After the ceremony, the winner goes with the cross door to door around town collecting money or gifts for the church.
February 6th: (Apokries & Carnival): Apokries is called the short period before Lent. It coincides with an ancient custom of carnival, which has its roots in the ancient festival of Dionysus and other pagan traditions of ancient Greece. In the carnival all ages dress in uniforms so they can not be recognized by friends or neighbors, wander through the city, visiting houses to collect money, make jokes, get drunk, dance, party... The carnival for a long time was not allowed by the Church because of its pagan nature.
Kathara Deftera: It's the last day of Apokries (and carnival) and the first day of Lent. For 40 days all faithfull Christians should not eat meat (except fish), eggs and dairy products. Usually Kathara Deftera is celebrated at the country side where the locals eat lagana (a special bread), olives, salads and other meatless dishes. If the weather permits, the young play with kites. This day is a public holiday in Greece.
March 25th (Annunciation of Virgin Mary & Independence Day) March 25th was and always will be a double celebration for both the entire island of Skiathos and Hellenism itself. On March 25th is celebrated the Annunciation of Virgin Mary, a great celebration of Christianity. This was one of the reasons the pioneers and heroes of the Greek Revolution War of Independence was designated at March 25, 1821 and set that be the day to to fight with courage and pride against the occupier for the future generations to live freely. Every year on March 25 along with a number of events in the morning at the old port there is a school parade. Similar events take place in every corner of Greece and the day a public holiday throughout the country.
April 23th (St. George's Day): St. George, patron of the Cavalry and the Knights celebrated in Skiathos with horse racing.
May 1st (Labour Day): The custom has its roots in ancient Greece where people celebrated the return of Persephone by hanging wreaths of flowers on the doors of their homes. When flowers have dried this marks the end of summer. In modern Greece, the first day of May is a public holiday and people are celebrating in the countryside with food, dancing and wine under a warm spring sky.
August 15th (Dekapentafgoustos): After Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Dekapentafgoustos is the second biggest religious celebration in Greece - a day dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Across the country, August 15th is a miraculous day and a lot of celebrating events take place in both Skiathos and the rest of the country.
September 19th (Memorial Day for Katsantonis Crew): On September 19th, 1943 Katsantonis submarine submerged by German forces in the north side of the island (off Kastro coast). From all the crew only 3 people managed to survive and swim to Skiathos where the locals took care of them. Each year at this day, Skiathos honors the heroes in the Tris Hierarches church. The Greek Navy honours the Crew with wreaths and procession plus a detachment, a frigate and a submarine.
October 28th (Ochi Anniversary): This is another day dedicated to the Virgin Mary but it is mostly celebrated for the legendary refusal of the Greek people, by the words of dictator Ioannis Metaxas, Greece to participate in the Second World War assisting Axis forces, at October 28th, 1940. Every year this day in all over the country are events and parades and so in Skiathos there is a school parade around 10 am. October 28th is a public holiday throughout the country.
November 20th & 21th (Panagia Kounistra Celebration): Panagia Kounistra is the patron and protector of Skiathos. The miraculous image was found in 1650 in a tree and a monastery was built there for keeping it. But today the icon is kept in the Tris Hierarches church. On November 20th the image is transferred at Kounistras monastery at Troulos. People stay awake for all night and the next day, November 21th the image is transferred back to Tris Hierarches church. Although the Skiathos Municipality has regular bus routes, many locals (in deference to tradition) tend to go to the monastery on foot, a 2 hour journey from the Skiathos town.
December 6th (St. Nicholas Day): St Nicholas, patron saint of all seafarers, is a favorite throughout the island Greece. On December 6th where officially celebrated Saint Nicholas, a ceremony is performed in the church built in his honor and a decked boat is placed in front of Bourzi. Small sailing boats adorn most homes since this is the traditional Greek Christmas decoration, although in recent years the Christmas tree is just as popular.
December 25th (Christmas Day): Christmas is one of the biggest religious celebrations in Greece and all people celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ with friends or relatives.
December 31th (New Year's Eve): Every last day of the year, people gather together to welcome the new year. With the Year change, a happy atmosphere fills every corner of Skiathos and the islanders exchange wishes each other, forgetting for a moment every problem and disagreement. Children await gifts from Agios Vasilis (the orthodox version of Santa Clauss) and according to tradition some adults play card games with friends. The winner is considered to have a good year and usually spends the money he won in drinks with his company. Year change is always followed by a big party at the restaurants and bars of the island, which usually lasts up until the first light - the first light of the new, promising year, with optimism and a lot of plans for the future.