On the 21st November Kounistra Monastery celebrates the Presentation of Virgin Mary. On the 20th November the original icon of the Virgin Mary located in the church of "Trion Ierarchon" is removed and taken to the Kounistra monastery by foot via the mountain route. Along the way a gun salute honours the removal of the icon at Acropolis. Once the icon reaches the monastery prayers are said all night and at dawn the icon is returned to the church in town.
Visitors wishing to experience this remarkable spiritual and devotional week should note that in Greece the dates on which Easter differs from 1 to 4 weeks from those observed by the Catholics.
The nails holding the figure of Christ are knocked off and the figure is taken down from the cross and wrapped in a white cloth. A large piece of cloth, embroidered with the image of Christ, called the epitaphios which has been decorated with flowers by the girls through the night, is brought into the church where it is sprinkled with rose-water and more flower petals are thrown upon it. The bells of the church begin to toll and all the flags in Greece are lowered to half-mast.
In Skiathos there are two epitaphios services which take place:
On Friday, at about 9pm the epitaphios is taken from the church of "Trion Ierarchon" and with the bells tolling mournfully, is carried through the streets in a solemn procession. The second epitaphios service begins on Saturday at 1am at the Evagelistrias Monastery. The two congregations then meet in the square with their epitaphios after taking different routes through the village and the procession through the town begins at four in the morning. At the Church of the "Three Hierarchs", the congregations of the two churches meet at around 5.30 in the morning. There, the clergy perform a reenactment of the "Descent into Hell" of Christ. When they come to words "Lift up your heads, O ye gates", the priest pushes with force (with his foot) and opens the outer door of the church.
On Saturday the Orthodox Patriarch breaks the seal of the door of the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jeruselem and emerges with the Holy Fire, which is then flown by Olympic Airways, accompanied by high-ranking priests and government officials to Athens airport where it is met by an honor guard to the small church of Agia Anargyroi in the Plaka. From there the light is distributed to churches all over Attika and the rest of Greece.
In the marine region of Kastro the "Lampros Katsonis "submarine sunk in September of 1943 after beeing attached by German dive bombers. Every year on this day officials and locals go out on boats and throw flower wreaths into the sea in commemoration.
On the 26th July the Feast of Agia Paraskevi takes place and is an ideal opportunity to witness the colourful folk dances of the island. Visitors are encouraged to join in. Traditional music and charming local costumes set the scene for a thoroughly enjoyable day. Situated across the road from the Magic Hotel, we thoroughly recommend our guests to visit the church on this special occasion.
On 15th August the Evagelistria Monastery celebrates the Ascension of the Virgin Mary with a beautiful epitaphios service where all the locals gather to celebrate It is a unique epitaphios in Greece which must be witnessed. Greeks living in the cities will flock to the islands and villages to celebrate this festival.
The Feast of Agios Georgos (St. George), who is the patron saint of Shepherds & cavaliers, is another important festival in the Orthodox calendar.
He is usually depicted as a young knight on a horse slaying a dragon. Every year on the second day after Easter the festival of Saint George takes place where local horses race each other by the lake near the airport.
The country church of Zoodochos Pigi is situated 7km north-west of Skiathos town and was built here after an icon of Panagia was discovered on top of the mountain. Every year, on the first Friday after Easter, locals celebrate with traditional songs and dance the discovery of the "Fountain of life" (Zoodoxhos Pighi).
Every summer on 25. or 26. July there is a big party at the church of Platanias=Ag. Paraskevi that starts in the evening and finishes around 2am. Local people and tourists enjoy the live music in the church yard in the high street. Everybody is welcome.
What about the locals? I can not complain, everything was OK, but this is not a suitable example of memorable warm hearted hospitality, as you can experience it on Kalymnos, Naxos or Skopelos. I think there is not a lot of true locals. Many of them are living in the mainland and Skiathos is for them only a matter of business.