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Festivals and Holidays

Holidays are taken very seriously in Greece, and Gavalochori is no exception. Often, many businesses, public buildings, and archaeological and historic sites are closed on holidays. As a result, you need to be aware of such closures so that you don’t plan an outing to someplace only to find it is closed. Even if many establishments are closed, the natural beauty of Crete is always open, and a few commercial establishments usually stay open to allow you access to food and other basics. Holidays also give you the opportunity to participate in the name-day or other religious festivals and celebrations in churches in Gavalochori. The festivals and holidays that you can experience in Gavalochori are organized here by month so you can quickly see if some will be occurring when you are here.

Game with Easter Eggs. Anny Pappa, Pexels

January 1 

New Year’s Day/Saint Basil’s Day. Saint Basil, the equivalent of Father Christmas in other parts of the world, is said to have distributed bread to the poor in which he had hidden money for them. This act is ritualized with a Saint Basil’s cake called vasilopita (βασιλόπιτα), which contains a hidden coin. A slice is cut for each family member and guest in order of age from the oldest to the youngest, and the person who receives the slice containing the coin will supposedly have a lucky year. A church service in the Church of the Nativity of Mary is followed by singing, dancing, and feasting. Gifts are exchanged on this day and not on Christmas Day. You might also see sailboats decorated with lights around this date, the Greek equivalent of Christmas trees.

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Vasilopita. Argiro.gr
Drimia_maritima
Blooming Askeletoura. Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons
Urginea_maritima
Askeletoura. MurielBendel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Another tradition on this day is to hang an askeletoura (ασκελετούρα) plant at the entrance to the house. The askeletoura grows wild around Gavalochori and has a very large bulb that looks a bit like a big onion. At the start of a new year, it is pulled from the fields, and because it can survive even when uprooted, it symbolizes growth and regeneration and thus good luck for the coming year.

January 6

Epiphany or the Blessing of the Waters. A celebration of Christ’s baptism by Saint John, celebrated by immersing crosses in seas, lakes, and rivers to bless them. In some places, young men (and now some women) dive for crosses tossed into a body of water by a priest. You can view this ceremony at the harbor in Kalyves (Καλύβες) or in Armenoi (Αρμένοι), where the cross is thrown into the river. This ceremony starts at 9:00 a.m.

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Diving for Cross, Epiphany. Οικονόμου Στέφανος / Oik S at Greek Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons
Church of Saint Anthony

Church of Saint Anthony

1.4 km from main square
Gavalochori

January 17

Name or feast day of the Church of Saint Anthony. Religious services are celebrated the evening before and the morning of this day in the church in Gavalochori. The name days of saints typically celebrate the day that the saints died rather than their birth dates because they became martyrs and returned to God on the day that they died. Sometimes, you will find the churches decorated on their name days with seasonal greenery, the branches of bay leaves, and colorful triangle flags. People who have a strong connection with the saint for whom a church is named—perhaps they share the same name as the saint or the saint helped them in their life in some way—will often bring an offering to the service on the saint’s name day. Offerings consist of cakes, cookies, cheese pies, cheese, wine, and raki. These offerings are shared among the parishioners following the service.

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