Halloween in Greece isn’t really all that popular. The roots of this well-known celebration have nothing to do with Greek culture and traditions. Here’s everything you need to know about Greece and Halloween.
Celebrating Halloween in Greece
Halloween, with its spooky costumes and endless supply of candy, is a beloved holiday celebrated in many countries around the world on the 31st of October. In Greece, however, Halloween has never gained much popularity or traction.
Some young Greeks, particularly in the biggest cities like Athens, may participate in Halloween parties and events. However, the Halloween holiday doesn’t have a strong presence in Greece, and many Greek people are not familiar with it.
Let’s find out more about the origins of Halloween and why it’s not a big thing in Greece!
The Origins of Halloween
The origins of Halloween can be traced back to an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. This was a time to celebrate the end of the harvest season, and welcome the arrival of winter.
The Celts celebrated New Year’s Day on the day that aligns with November 1 on modern calendars. As such, the festival of Samhain was the equivalent to New Year’s Eve.
The Ancient Celts believed that, during Samhain, the boundaries between the living and spirit worlds were blurred. This allowed for spirits to roam freely on earth, and the living were able to communicate with them.
To restore tranquility, the Celtic Druids built large bonfires, and they sacrificed animals and crops to appease the spirits. Furthermore, The Celts adorned themselves with various disguises, as a symbolic gesture to distinguish themselves from the realm of spirits.
But what does any of that have to do with Greece, Halloween or the modern western world? Keep reading!
Christianity and Halloween
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, many pagan practices and celebrations were abolished. Others, however, were incorporated into Christian traditions.
In the 8th century AD, Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as the “All Saints’ Day,” otherwise known as “All Hallows’ Day”. This was a holiday to honor all the Saints of the Catholic church.
The day before All Hallows Day was soon named to “All Hallows Even” or “All Hallow’s Eve”, which was eventually shortened to “Halloween”.
Some of the pagan traditions, like Samhain, co-existed with the rituals of the Catholic church. Gradually, Samhain and Halloween became intertwined, and the celebration eventually transformed into what we know today.
Greece and Halloween
And now, let’s see why Halloween never caught on in Greece as it did in other countries throughout the world!
One of the reasons is that Greece has always been a predominantly Christian Orthodox country. The Orthodox church celebrates All Saints’ Day 8 weeks after Greek Orthodox Easter, which always falls on a Sunday in May / June.
Another reason why Greeks don’t observe Halloween is that there are tons of Greek celebrations and festivals.
And while many of them are based on Greek religion, there are others with pagan roots, such as the Greek Carnival, known in Greek as Apokries. More on this, later!
Halloween celebrations in Greece
So does that mean that there are no Halloween celebrations throughout Greece?
Unfortunately, that’s right more or less. If you are in Greece for Halloween, you won’t see children dressed in spooky costumes, going around the streets trick or treating.
Yet, if you are in the bigger cities like Athens or Thessaloniki, you will definitely see some bright orange pumpkins and ghoulish decorations. You should also be able to catch a couple of Halloween costume parties, which are influenced by Western culture.
Halloween in Athens Greece
And now, let’s see what sort of parties and events you can expect if you are in Athens for Halloween!
Every year, the Little Kook puts up very elaborate Halloween decorations inside and outside the cafe, and has specially themed menus and events.
These days, more and more places host Halloween parties in Athens, and they are usually announced 2-3 weeks before they happen. Here are a few Halloween parties Athens 2023:
- Halloween party Athens Arch Club
- Alice Cooper Halloween party
- Comicdom Cosplay Halloween
- Techno Halloween Athens party
- Hard Rock Cafe Athens Halloween party
- Swing party Athens Halloween
- 80s Halloween party in Athens
- Athens Halloween Hunt
As for kids parties, have a look at the Halloween kids party at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Apokries – The Greek Halloween
And finally, let’s find out a little more about the Greek Carnival, which Greeks call Apokries!
As with other Carnivals that you may be aware of, like the ones in Venice or Rio De Janeiro, people in Greece dress up in costumes and participate in parades and parties.
Unlike Halloween, Apokries does not focus on spooky or scary themes, though you will typically see lots of those. All sorts of themes are acceptable – even just wearing a colorful wig and big fake glasses counts!
Greeks celebrate the Carnival during the three-week period before the beginning of Lent. Its last day is Clean Monday, which is a very special day.
Cities famous for their Carnival are Patras and Xanthi, but you will see celebrations, parties and a festive atmosphere wherever you go in Greece.
As for the origins of Apokries, they are not dissimilar to Samhain! But, to quote a famous author, that is another story and shall be told another time!
Conclusion: Do they celebrate Halloween in Greece?
In conclusion, Halloween is not a big thing in Greece. Still, you will find a few Halloween parties in bigger cities like Athens or Thessaloniki.
If you are looking to buy Halloween decorations in Greece, check out stores like Jumbo, Tiger, Diafano, Max Stores, H&M and MySeason. They usually have their fair share of pumpkins, bats, spiders, witch hats, skeletons and ghosts.
Most supermarkets would be a good place to look as well.
FAQs about Halloween and Greece
Here are a few questions that people often ask about Greece / Halloween:
Do Greeks celebrate Halloween?
Most Greek people don’t celebrate Halloween. With that said, you should be able to find Halloween-themed parties in Athens.
What is the Greek equivalent of Halloween?
Greeks celebrate the Carnival in February / March. This is somehow similar to Halloween, in the sense that people dress up. The Carnival is known in Greek as Apokries.
Was there an Ancient Greek celebration dedicated to the Carnival?
Ancient Greeks celebrated the equivalent of the modern Carnival, called Anthesteria, in February / March.
What do Greeks celebrate in October?
Greeks celebrate a national holiday, known as the OXI day, on 28th October.
You can read more about it here: OXI day in Greece.
Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens. If you were disappointed that Greeks don’t celebrate Halloween, have a look at this guide on Greek festivals and celebrations! Follow me on Facebook for more Greece-related articles.