Knowing what public holidays are observed in Greece before you travel is vital! Not only can you plan around any lack of services on specific days, but you can make your vacation even more unique by partaking whenever possible!
Greece is a country that has an official religion, Greek Orthodox Christianity. As such, a good few of the public holidays in Greece commemorate important religious holidays. The rest of the public holidays are anniversaries of important events in Greece’s relatively modern history.
There are twelve official public holidays in Greece, which are celebrated all over the country. If the holiday happens on a Sunday, the holiday doesn’t get bumped but is celebrated on Sunday. The only exception to this is May 1 for the reasons explained below. Some holidays also expand to include more than one day of vacation, like Easter or Christmas.
Beyond the twelve holidays listed here, make sure to check whether the region you’re visiting also observes more localized holidays for patron saints or special anniversaries of historical events that took place there (e.g., September 8 is a public holiday for Spetses island only, called Armata, where they celebrate an important naval battle from the War of Independence).
So, what are the official, country-wide public holidays in Greece? Here they are as they come up on the calendar:
- Public Holidays in Greece
- January 1: New Year’s Day
- January 6: Epiphany
- Clean Monday: the first day of Lent (the date varies)
- March 25: Independence Day
- Great Friday (Good Friday): two days before Easter (the date varies)
- Easter Sunday and Easter Monday
- May 1: Labor Day/ May Day
- Pentecost (Whit Monday): 50 days after Easter
- August 15: Dormition of the Virgin Mary
- October 28: No Day (Ochi Day)
- December 25: Christmas Day
- December 26: Synaxis Theotokou (Glorifying of the Mother of God)
- Two semi-public holidays: November 17 and January 30
- Public Holidays in Greece in 2023
Public Holidays in Greece
January 1: New Year’s Day
January 1st is New Year’s Day in Greece or “Protochronia.” It’s a general public holiday so expect everything to be closed or shut down. New Year’s is a family holiday (as opposed to the late-night partying of New Year’s Eve), so people are enjoying family dinners at home. If you’re in Greece during New Year’s, make sure you spend it with friends and their families. You’re going to be in for great food and casual partying. There are several lovely customs to observe too, such as cutting into St. Basil’s pies (a cake that has a lucky coin in it), playing cards, and more.
Keep in mind that while January 2nd isn’t an official public holiday, a lot of venues and services remain closed or work the minimum workday.
January 6: Epiphany
January 6 is a religious holiday where the Epiphany is celebrated. The Epiphany is the commemoration of the revelation of Jesus Christ as the son of God and one of the three iterations of the Holy Trinity. According to the New Testament, this revelation took place when Jesus went to John the Baptist to be baptized.
The custom in Greece is to revive this event by having mass outdoors, preferably near a body of water (in Athens, it takes place at Piraeus). This mass is called “the blessing of the waters” and the priest tosses a cross in the water. Brave swimmers jump in and race to catch the cross and return it. Whoever gets the cross first is blessed for that year.
On the eve of the Epiphany, there is caroling. Again, on the day, expect everything to be closed except for cafés and taverns.
Clean Monday: the first day of Lent (the date varies)
Clean Monday is a moveable holiday because when it takes, the place is calculated based on when Easter is celebrated each year, which is also a moveable holiday. Clean Monday is the first day of Lent and it is celebrated by going on day trips to the countryside for picnics and flying kites. People begin Lent with a feast of dishes that don’t include meat (fish, though it is often included).
As with most public holidays in Greece, this day is very friendly and family-centric, so make sure you have people to spend it with!
March 25: Independence Day
The 25th of March is the anniversary of the beginning of the 1821 Revolution of the Greeks against the Ottoman Empire, which kicked off the Greek War of Independence and eventually led to the founding of the modern Greek state in 1830.
On the day, there are student and army marches taking place at least in every major city, so expect commuting to be difficult in the morning and around noon.
The holiday also coincides with the religious holiday of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear Jesus Christ. The traditional dish that is eaten everywhere on the day is fried cod fish with garlic sauce. Make sure you at least sample it!
Some museums and archaeological sites might be closed; check before going.
Great Friday (Good Friday): two days before Easter (the date varies)
Good Friday is part of the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday, so, like Easter, it is also moveable. Good Friday is a public holiday dedicated to very specific traditions and religious celebrations. As a rule, Good Friday is not considered a happy day, and any manifestations of overt happiness (e.g., loud music or dancing and partying) are frowned upon.
According to Greek Orthodox tradition, Good Friday is the peak of the Divine Drama, which is when Jesus Christ died on the cross. Therefore, Good Friday is a day of mourning. You will see flags at mid-mast on all public buildings and hear church bells toll.
Early in the morning, there is a special mass where the Deposition from the Cross is role-played in the church, and Jesus is laid in his tomb, which for the church purposes is the Epitaph: a heavily embroidered sacred cloth in an ornately decorated bier that is additionally adorned with flowers by the congregation.
At night, a second mass takes place, which is the funeral of Jesus, or Epitaphios. During that, a funerary march and litany take place outdoors, headed by the Epitaph in its bier and followed by the congregation that sings special hymns and carries candles. During the litany, expect the roads to be blocked off. Most stores except cafés and bars are shut, too.
Participating in the Epitaph is an experience, even if you don’t observe, simply for the sheer ambiance and beauty of the hymns, which are considered the most beautiful ones in the Orthodox repertoire.
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday
Easter Sunday is a huge day of feasting and partying, with several traditions- and most of them involve people eating for an entire day!
Expect everything to be shut on Easter Sunday.
Easter Monday is a public holiday mostly because people sleep off the exuberance of the day before. It’s also yet another family-centric celebration with various local traditions and casual celebrations.
Shops are closed on Easter Monday but archaeological sites and museums are open.
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May 1: Labor Day/ May Day
May 1st is a special public holiday in that it is specifically a designated strike day. That’s why, even if it happens to be on Saturday or Sunday, Labor Day is bumped to the next working day, usually a Monday. Since it is a strike day, expect almost everything to be down exactly because people participate in the country-wide strike- usually not because it’s custom but because there are still dire problems being addressed.
At the same time, May 1st is also May Day, and tradition has people going to the fields to pick flowers and make May’s flower wreaths to hang at their doors. So, despite the strike, flower shops are likely to be open.
Museums and archaeological sites are closed.
Pentecost (Whit Monday): 50 days after Easter
Pentecost is also dubbed “second Easter” and is the last Easter-related holiday of the year. It commemorates the time when the Apostles received the grace of the Holy Spirit and embarked on their journeys to spread the Gospel.
It is one of the few days in the year when fasting is actually forbidden by the church, and “feasting” is the way to celebrate. Therefore, expect cafés and taverns to be open but almost nothing else unless you are on the islands. Depending on where you are, Pentecost is very colorful with local traditions, so make sure you inquire about the celebrations.
August 15: Dormition of the Virgin Mary
August 15th is “summer’s Easter” in that it is one of the biggest and most important religious celebrations and public holidays in Greece. It is the commemoration of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary and several traditions are observed on the day. Especially if you find yourself in the islands, notable Tinos, or Patmos, you will watch resplendent litanies and other ceremonies honoring Mary’s ascension to the heavens.
On the day, most stores and shops are shut down unless you are on the islands, where it is the peak of tourist season. Even more so in the islands that are places of religious pilgrimage, like Tinos or Patmos.
October 28: No Day (Ochi Day)
October 28 is the second national holiday in Greece, commemorating Greece’s entry into WWII on the side of the Allies. It is called “No Day” (Ochi Day in Greek) because the Greeks said “No” to Mussolini’s ultimatum of capitulating to Italian troops without a fight. This denial of then PM Metaxas to the Italian envoy marked the official declaration of war from Italy, part of the Axis Powers, against Greece.
On October 28, there are military and student marches taking place in all major cities, towns, and villages. In certain areas, marches by the students take place the day before, so the military march can happen on the day (this is the case in Thessaloniki). Keep in mind then that just like on March 25, a lot of roads will be closed off until around noon. Shops are shut but venues tend to be open.
December 25: Christmas Day
December 25 is Christmas Day and it is the second biggest family-centric celebration of the year after Easter. Expect nearly everything to be closed or shut down, and emergency services work on their standby staff. There are many celebrations taking place, outdoors and indoors, including festivals and Christmas parks, so those do remain open.
Museums and archaeological sites are closed.
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December 26: Synaxis Theotokou (Glorifying of the Mother of God)
December 26 is the day after Christmas and it is the equivalent of Boxing Day abroad for Greeks. The religious holiday is generally in honor of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. It is a day of lauding and celebrating her sacrifice and her being the gate of redemption for mankind.
In general, expect most shops and venues to be closed as people celebrate at their homes or recuperate from the partying of the two previous days!
Museums and archaeological sites are closed.
Two semi-public holidays: November 17 and January 30
November 17: It is the anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising of 1973 when students of the Polytechnic heralded massive demonstrations against the Junta regime that occupied Greece at the time. They barricaded themselves in the Polytechnic School and remained there until the regime sent a tank to break down the door. Though the holiday is for students only, the center of Athens and some other major cities shut down in the afternoon because demonstrations and possible strife take place after the celebrations.
January 30: The Day of the Three Hierarchs, the patron saints of education. Schools are out for the day, so expect everything to be more crowded, especially if the day is before or right after a weekend, making the holiday a great opportunity for a 3-day vacation for students and their parents.
Public Holidays in Greece in 2023
- New Year’s Day: Sunday, January 01, 2023
- Epiphany: Friday, January 06, 2023
- Clean Monday: Monday, February 27, 2023
- Independence Day: Saturday, March 25, 2023
- Orthodox Good Friday: Friday, April 14, 2023
- Orthodox Easter Sunday: Sunday, April 16, 2023
- Orthodox Easter Monday: Monday, April 17, 2023
- Labor Day: Monday, May 01, 2023
- Assumption of Mary: Tuesday, August 15, 2023
- The Ochi Day: Saturday, October 28, 2023
- Christmas Day: Monday, December 25, 2023
- Glorifying Mother of God: Tuesday, December 26, 2023