Greece Celebrates August 15

Faithful flock to Tinos island and Panagia Soumela Monastery for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary festivities

August 15, or "Dekapentavgoustos," is a unique feastday for the Greek Orthodox. Traditionally celebrated with church services and panigyria (festivals) countrywide, August 15 is devoted to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Panagia). Those named Panagiotis, Despoina, Maria and Panagiota celebrate their nameday on August 15.

The Church of the Megalohari (Great Grace) on Tinos and the Panagia Soumela Monastery in northern Greece draw in most of the country's faithful this time of the year.

"Dekapentavgoustos" on Tinos

On this day, pilgrims from around the country flock to the Evangelistria Church on the Cycladic island of Tinos to worship the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary. Legend has it that the Virgin appeared to a nun (who later became Saint Pelagia) in a dream telling her of the icon's exact location. Believed to have healing properties, the icon was found six months later on January 1823. Among the first visitors to Tinos to see the sacred image of the Panagia were Greek War of Independence (1821) heroes Kolokotronis, Miaoulis and Makriyannis.

The ceremonies on Tinos begin with a wreath laid on the evening of August 14 at a monument for the Greek destroyer Elli, which was sunk outside Tinos' harbour by an Italian submarine on August 15, 1940. An evening service follows. The next day, the matins of Evangelistria Church begin at 2.30am (with a subsequent liturgy), followed by a 7am-feastday service. At 9.30am, another wreath is laid for the Elli—this time at sea. The festivities peak with a procession of the Virgin Mary icon. Military celebrations and traditional events culminate into the evening.

To meet with the demands of an increased number of travelers to Tinos, the merchant marine ministry has approved of added ferryboats for the holiday.

Panagia Soumela events

Every year, thousands of Greeks, many from the Pontus region of the southeastern Black Sea coast, as well as notables, congregate at the Panagia Soumela Monastery at the foothills of Mount Vermio.

In addition to the traditional church service and Virgin Mary icon procession, this year's celebrations will mark 80 years since the Asia Minor Catastrophe and 50 years since the Panagia Soumela Society's establishment. (MPA, Athens News)

(Revised 15 August 2006. Original posting date 23 January 2003.)

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