Behind the Mykonos “lifestyle” facade lies more authenticity than one would even imagine. Indeed, the people of the Greek Cycladic island still value their traditions and religious festivals, which are of major interest for the thousands of islanders that take part and the many tourists that visit the island just for that reason. The religious festivities of Mykonos take place annually, primarily in Mykonos Town, the island capital, to honour their saints. They include lots of traditional dances, eating and drinking local delights and ouzo (or wine), music (mainly folklore), and celebrations full of fun, laughter, and joy. Expect the revival of old traditions and customs that are more than just interesting to watch!
The Preparations Before the Religious Feasts
If you have been to a Cycladic island just before a major religious festival, you will probably notice many similarities in the sacred character of these feasts. The churches are whitewashed in the days before the celebration. The brass is meticulously polished, everything is spotlessly cleaned, and the exterior spaces are decorated with flags. Flowers and basil are all over the place, creating a welcoming and beautifully intoxicating atmosphere. A day before the feast, the most faithful come to the church and light candles to pray for health and the forgiveness of the souls of those departed.
The Day of the Religious Event
The day before the festival, there is usually a litany, where the icon of the saint that is being celebrated is processed around the church or takes a longer route that goes through the narrow cobbled streets of Mykonos Town (or the village in which the church is located) until it returns to the church. During this process, the priest and church choir say hymns and prayers followed by specific congregational responses.
The religious ones attend Mass that takes place early on the day of the religious festival. After the end of Mass, the feast begins with local musicians playing accordions, violins, bagpipes, and other traditional instruments (in pairs) so everybody can sing, drink, eat, and enjoy themselves!
Foodwise, the tables are filled with appetisers (called mezedes) after consuming a nice glass of meat broth that the islanders love for lining the stomach in preparation for what comes next! Expect lots of ouzo, raki, and wine and plenty of local foods and dishes prepared by Mykonos women.
Let’s note that if the weather permits it, the religious festivals are held outdoors, and locals place portable benches and tables around the church. In the wintertime, people head to specially designed buildings that feature built-in tables and benches.
Some of the most important religious festivals on the island (of the countless feast days in Mykonos) are:
- The Virgin Mary of Tourliani (in Ano Mera)
- Agios Haralambos (under the windmills)
- Agia Anna (in Vounia)
- Agios Ioannis (in Ornos)
- Agioi Apostoloi
Other Mykonos celebrations worth joining:
- Mykonos Summer Festival – A set of exciting events is organised every year and includes art exhibitions, theatrical performances, open-air concerts, and more, which create an utterly lively atmosphere. The Summer Festival is one of the most celebrated cultural events in Mykonos that welcomes thousands of visitors and artists from across the globe.
- Harvest Festival – This one is held at the Agricultural Museum every year on the 2nd Sunday in September. Villagers bake bread in the oven and bring wine and food while musicians play traditional musical instruments for everyone to dance and celebrate the feast of harvest. It also boasts traditional animal games, traditional crops, different types of livestock, and various activities.
- Gay Festival – Another annual event that attracts thousands of gay visitors from the corners of the earth. It is perhaps the most vivid and celebrated gay festival in the Mediterranean, hosting renowned DJs, endless parties, lots of wine, and night-long fun.