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Traditions in Zante

Tradition is an important part of life in Zakynthos. Very characteristic of Zante is the Easter, the Carnival and the annual festival held in honor of St. Dionysios the patron Saint of Zante.

Easter: The Holy Week before Easter in Zakynthos is very solemn and moving. There are unique traditions that are not found in any other region of the country and were formed under the specific historical conditions and influences that Zakynthos accepted through the ages. You will be fascinated by the procession of the Crucified at midday on Holy Friday, the church of St. Nicholas Mole, and the blessing of the crowd with the Crucified by the Bishop of Zakynthos. The devout atmosphere during the procession of the Epitaph, which takes place at 4 am on the morning of Holy Saturday, is a moving and enthralling experience. The custom has taken place on island since 1644. The rest of Greece holds the Epitaph procession on the eve of Holy Friday. “Gloria in excelsis Deo” is Latin for “Glory to the God in the highest”. This well-known doxology can be heard from the Metropolitan Cathedral following the return of the Epitaph. The hymn can be heard at the same time in St. Mark’s square signifying the first resurrection. The traditional breaking of terracotta pitchers follows, much to the delight of onlookers.

Carnival: Zakynthos Carnival was linked throughout the centuries with the progress of the island in time and space and deeply influenced by the Venetians and the peculiar local customs and traditions. Each year takes place the Povero Carnival, where a King of the Carnival is burned, and every one hopes that through the ashes will remain alive the spark of the next Carnival.

Giostra: The Giostra is an equestrian contest. The exact date of origin is not known, but the Giostra began as a joust between rivals. With time, however, it has evolved primarily as the most important event of the year. This custom has a direct connection with Carnival and in the past years the event took place on the Thursday before Carnival. Today the Giostra is carried out by the association “Giostra di Zante”, twice a year: on the day of the feast of Saint George and the weekend of the Holy Spirit.

Feasts in Zante:

  • Two annual major festivals are held in honor of Agios Dionysios, Saint Patron of Zakynthos.

The first festival is on the 24th of August and is held in memory of the transportation of the Saint's body from the monastery of Strofades to the church of Agios Dionysios, where it still is today.
The second festival is celebrated on the 17th of December, date of the death of the saint.
Both festivals are lasting three days and consist in various religious ceremonies followed by traditional dances and music accompanied by local food and wine; those feats attract thousands of people and pilgrims from all over the island and from other parts of Greece.

  • Feast of Agia Mavra

The celebration of the name day of Agia Mavra is held on the 3rd of May.This celebration begins with a religious ceremony in the church of the same name which is located in the village of Maherado. Then the feast continues with banquets and traditional dances on the village's square.

  • Feast of the Virgin Mary

Like in every other part of Greece, the celebration of the Virgin Mary (on the 15th of August) is one of the most important feasts in Zakynthos. A religious ceremony is held in honor of the Virgin, followed by dances, eating and drinking until dawn. All the islanders gathered on the 15th of August to participate to the feast in the villages of Vasilikos and Katastari.

  • Wine Feast

A wine festival is organized in the capital of Zakynthos. This wine feast takes place from the last days of August to the first days of September during which the excellent wines produced by the island can be tasted.

  • Feast of Spiliotissa

It is celebrated on the 8th of September in the village of Orthonies. The feast of Spiliotissa consists, like every religious feast in a religious ceremony is followed by traditional music, dances, food and wine.

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