August 15th Greece – Dormition Of The Virgin Mary

On the 15th of August, the whole of Greece celebrates the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Here’s what to expect if you are in Greece on this day.

The Dormition of the Virgin August 15th Greece

The celebration of the Dormition of the Virgin in Greece, on the 15th of August, has a very special place in the Orthodox Church’s calendar.

Known in Greek as Dekapentavgoustos, this major celebration is linked to the uniqueness of the Mother of God.

Panagia, as Greeks call the most Holy Virgin Mary, gave birth to Jesus Christ. As such, she has a very special place in the Orthodox Church.

The Dormition of the Virgin Mary in Greece

The Virgin has also been associated with the struggles of the Greek nation. Religious Greeks honor and respect her more than any other holy person, including the Saints and the Twelve Apostles.

The Dormition is the largest and most important celebration in her honor. It is a public holiday, and a huge cultural event everywhere in Greece.

August 15th Greece – Celebrating The Mother of God

The Assumption of the Virgin is not a mournful event for the Greek Orthodoxy. Instead, it is a joyous celebration, because the Virgin “transcended to eternal life”. Nowhere else such joy!

Throughout Greece, locals celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary with unique church liturgies of particular splendor.

These are accompanied by traditional local fiestas in many cities and villages, known in Greek as panigiria.

Celebrations in a Greek church

If you can catch one of those, it will definitely be the highlight of your Greek vacation! Expect lots of food, drink, traditional dancing, and an overall merry atmosphere.

Celebrations of Panagia around Greece August 15th

The special adoration that Greeks have for the Virgin Mary is evident all around the country. There are innumerable churches, chapels and pilgrimages across the Greek territory named after the Most Holy Lady.

The biggest celebration in Greece happen in Tinos island. On the 15th of August, thousands of people go to Our Lady of Tinos church, to pay their respects to the Holy Virgin.

Other islands famous for their Dekapentavgoustos celebrations include Paros, Andros, Amorgos, Rhodes, Patmos, Nisyros, Karpathos, Kasos, Corfu, Paxi, Othoni, Ikaria, Crete… the list is endless!

Traditional Greek fiesta panigiri  

If you are anywhere in Greece on the 15th August, ask the locals where the biggest panigiri will be. Note that celebrations might begin on the 14th and end on the 16th.

Sidenote: If you are travelling to any of the Greek islands around those dates, make sure you book your ferry tickets very well in advance!

Click here to book ferry tickets for Greece: Ferryscanner

Athens on the 15th August

If you happen to be in Athens on the 15th August, you will see an entirely different face of the city. Many Athenians are away at that time, taking advantage of the public holiday.

Many businesses are closed throughout the week, as the owners go on vacation. Most commercial shops, including clothes stores and supermarkets, remain closed on that day.

The Parthenon in the Acropolis of Athens Greece

However, if you are visiting Athens on 15th August, don’t worry, there’s plenty to do. For example, all the ancient sites and most museums in Athens are open as usual.

In terms of food and drink, again, no worries. Plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars are open – areas like Plaka or Psiri will be lively and vibrant, so you can enjoy your time!

Speaking of which, I’ve included some of my favourite restaurants in Athens in this article: 2 days in Athens. Have a look.

Celebrating Greek namedays on 15 August

Another thing you should know, is that the 15th of August is a very special nameday in Greece. 

Women named Maria, Mary, or Panagiota, whose names are related to the Most Holy Mother, have their nameday. In fact, Maria is a very common name in Greece. 

Moreover, men who go by the name of Marios or Panagiotis also celebrate their nameday on the 15th August.

Here is some more insight on namedays in Greece and how locals celebrate them.

The importance of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin for the Orthodox Church

And now, let’s have a look at the Orthodox Tradition, and find out why the Dormition of the Virgin is such an important holiday in Greece.

On 15th August, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Virgin’s transition into heaven. This includes the death and burial of the Virgin Mother of God, as well as her resurrection and ascension to heaven.

The doctrinal difference between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church believes in the doctrine of the bodily assumption of the most Holy Lady. This was finalized in 1950 by the apostolic constitution of Pope Pius XII, “Munificentissimus Deus“.

In contrast, the Orthodox Church proclaims the Dormition of the Mother of God, i.e. her real death, separation of soul and body.

Icon of the Virgin and Jesus in a Greek Orthodox church

This was followed by the Metastasis of the Holy Mother, i.e. her resurrection, union of soul and body, and her Ascension to her Son.

The Orthodox Church uses the term “Dormition of the Holy Virgin”. In Greek, we call it “I Koimisis tis Theotokou“.

A bit of background history for the August 15th celebration

The first testimonies about the celebration of the Dormition of the Virgin appear in the 5th century AD.

It was at that time when the Holy Mother of God was first celebrated in Gethsemane, in the holy city of Jerusalem. This is where the Tomb of the Virgin Mary is located.

The Virgin Mary's Tomb is in Jerusalem

That celebration had a more general Mother of God character, and was simply called “the day of the Virgin Mary”. There was no special reference to the event of the Assumption.

Over the centuries, the celebration spread out throughout the Christian world.

The Holy Lady is informed of Her imminent death

Overall, the New Testament includes very little information about the Dormition. Our knowledge comes from important men of the church, such as Saint John the Theologian, and also from various hymns and prayers.

According to church tradition, an angel informed the Virgin of her imminent death three days before it happened.

The Holy Mother began preparing for the end of her earthly life. She prayed on the Mount of Olives, and donated all her earthly possessions to two of her widowed neighbors.

Icon of the Virgin Mary in Greece

The Day of the Dormition

On the day of the Assumption, many of the Holy Disciples were not in Jerusalem, as they were preaching “to the ends of the earth”.

According to the Orthodox tradition, a cloud grabbed all of them, apart from the apostle Thomas, and brought them to Jerusalem, so they could witness the Holy event.

The Dormition of the Virgin took place in the house of Apostle John the Evangelist, where the Virgin resided.

After closing her eyes, the Holy Apostles Peter, Paul, John and others surrounded her deathbed. They then carried her Holy Relics to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Her Divine Glory shone through

During the transport of her remains to the Garden, fanatical Jews attempted to overturn the Holy Bed, but they were all blinded. One of them managed to touch it, but an invisible dagger cut off his hands.

The Apostle Thomas, who was absent from the funeral, went to her Burial Chamber three days after the Dormition. He only found an empty grave, as the Virgin’s Holy Body had risen.

The Virgin with Jesus icon

A magnificent church was built over the Virgin’s Tomb. It exists until today, and Christians visit from all around the world to pay their respects.

The Greek Orthodox fasting tradition

According to the Orthodox church tradition, the celebration of the Dormition of the Virgin is preceded by a 14-day fast.

Orthodox fasting consists of abstaining from certain foods, such as meat, chicken, eggs and dairy, for a certain number of days prior to a celebration. On certain day, olive oil and wine are not consumed either.

The fasting tradition in Greece calls for vegan dishes

Not all Greeks follow the fasting tradition, and it won’t affect you if you are visiting Greece on those dates.

If anything, you are more likely to find a larger variety of vegan dishes, especially if you are on the smaller islands and villages.

Read more here: 50 Greek dishes you must try.

Attending the divine liturgy in Greece

Between the 1st and the 14th of August, there are divine liturgies in most Orthodox churches.

These happen during the evening hours on all days, apart from Sundays. During the liturgies, the Holy Church sings prayers and sacred songs to honor the Holy Mother of Jesus Christ.

Everyone is welcome to attend those masses. If you want to participate, please dress respectfully, and avoid taking photos during the liturgies.

Church in Greece

FAQs about the Dormition of the Virgin

Here are a few questions readers have asked in the past:

What is 15 August in Greece?

On the 15th of August, Greeks celebrate the Dormition of the Virgin. It’s a big public holiday, so many shops are closed. Ancient sites, museums, restaurants and cafes remain open.

What is Dormition of the Virgin in Greek?

Greeks celebrate the Dormition of Virgin Mary, Mother of God, on August 15 every year. In Greek, it is called Koimisis tis Theotokou. Greeks also use the word Dekapentavgoustos, which translates into 15th of August.

What is the Greek equivalent of the Virgin Mary?

In Greek, the Virgin Mary is called Panagia, the Most Holy One. She is also known as Theotokos, which means Mother of God, or Parthenos Maria, which means Virgin Mary.

How is the Dormition of Virgin Mary commemorated in Greece?

The Dormition of the Virgin is a public holiday Greece. It is celebrated with divine liturgies and traditional local fiestas, known as panigiria.

Is the Acropolis of Athens open on the 15th August?

Yes, the Acropolis of Athens is open as usual on the 15th of August. Opening hours are 8:00 – 20:00.

Have a look at this article about the combined ticket to the Acropolis and the ancient sites in Athens.

More guides about Greek culture

Here are a few more articles about Greek religion and culture:

Vanessa from Real Greek Experiences Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens. If you are on any of the Greek islands on the 15th August, you are in for a treat! Follow me on FB for more Greece-related information and photos! 


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