Traditional religious feasts in Sifnos
Information on how we celebrate the Saints in Sifnos
Customs and traditions on the island of Sifnos
The inhabitants of the island, respecting the customs and traditions, organize feasts in chapels and monasteries throughout the year.
After the vespers, guests are offered food, cooked in traditional fireplaces the so-called “panostries”. Slow baked chickpea stew is the first dish served followed by veal with pasta. Wine flows plenty and fun is accompanied by the traditional «takimi», a pair of instrumentalists with violin and lute while people who attend the feast sing along. Most times the fun lasts until the early hours, with lots of dancing and improvised quatrains, the so-called "poetic". The people who undertake the organization of the feast, the «panigirades», also undertake all the costs of the feast.
Some chapels are easily accessed whilst for some others, access can only be made by trail. Also, there are chapels that can be accessed by the sea with private or fishing boats if however the weather allows it.
Do not loose the opportunity to visit them! Ask the locals if some of the days of your visit there is any feast. You shall live a unique experience!
Hospitality of the icon
The feasts some times take place in the regular dates of celebration of the Saint and some times in special dates that are always strictly set.
In Sifnos, tens of feasts take place during the whole year. Every month, in winter or in summer, there is at least one of the 235 country churches or monasteries of the island which celebrates.
So far many churches and country churches of Sifnos belonged to private individuals. Some of them have been built or inherited and maintained in an excellent condition by private individuals and others have been adopted by the faithful, who were once saved by the miraculous intervention of the Saint - protector of the city. Therefore, in order to repay the Saint for his help in the best possible way, the faithful used to take home the Saint’s icon in order to take better care of it. Thus, the custom of the yearly hospitality of the icon at the faithful’s house has been established in time. In the house of "panigiras". Even today, over three hundred icons remain outside their churches, at the houses of the faithful, and are taken quite often to the faithful’s winter residences in Athens, Piraeus, Thessalonica etc.
The faithful who takes the icon at his house meets his obligations which include looking after the icon and maintaining it. The icon is placed on a feather embroidered pillow in the best room of the house. In front of it, on the same table there are two candlesticks, one on the left and one on the right of the icon with candles, which are alight during the supplications.
It is also necessary to have an incensory for the morning and evening incensing and a small hanging oil lamp, which is constantly alight. Every night the faithful reads the Introit-Short Hymn and the Magnificat of the Saint like a prayer. In the past, during the holydays supplications used to be chanted and the first day of every month, a priest would come to the house for the holy water rites.
Besides the ritual part of the hospitality of the icon, an important obligation of the "panigiras" is the maintenance of the icon. Disinsections and varnishings are carried out while the faithful often call specialists for the preservation of the icon. Sometimes, with his vow the panigiras commits himself to frame the icon or to gild or silver it.
Having fulfilled all his obligations the panigiras reaches the zenith of the expression of his gratitude to the Saint by organizing his festival/feast.
First of all, he must whitewash the church, clean it and decorate it with flags. He also must order the consecrated bread for the holy bread that shall be distributed to the faithful, the obleys and the pastelis for the treats. The panigiras must also call at the feast the people who possibly do not know it and of course he must remind it to the priests and the chanters.
On the day of the feast, the panigiras must return the icon to its temple. If the distance between the house of the panigiras and the church is short, the icon shall be transferred by the panigiras himself and the rest of the faithful shall follow him. When they arrive to the church, the vespers shall take place and afterwards food shall be offered on the special "tables of love".
The panigiras is responsible for that part too. The preparation of the food is carried out by the "cooks" and finally the "waiters" shall give the food to the frequenters.
The main dishes are the traditional chick pea soup, olives, and braized meat with potatoes or spaghetti and during fasting, codfish. The wine must be abundant! During dinner the attendants hit their spoons against the table (this is called: "koutaloktipimata") toasting: "here’s to the panigiras"! (in greek: eviva ston panigira).
Thus, the festival (feast) goes on till the morning with dances and singings and the attendants articulating honorary "poems" or "rhymes" for the panigiras, which are often improvised that same moment! During the night supplications continue to take place before the Saint’s icon inside the church. The faithful go from the festival to the church and vice versa. They all must greet "Her grace" or "His grace" before the morning comes, when it is going to leave the church again to be taken at a new panigiras’ house for a year, up to the same day of the following year that it is going to return to the church for a few hours.
The only icon that never leaves the island and which is placed in the bishopric of the village of the panigiras for the whole year, is the icon of "Chrissopigi" the protector of Sifnos!
The feasts of the tourist period
Some of the feasts that are celebrated during the tourist period are:
- May or June (movable feast):The feast of the Assumption, when the protector of Sifnos is celebrated. Chrissopigi!
- 19 of June: The feast of Profitis Helias (many synonymous monasteries in Sifnos celebrate). It is worth going to the feast of Prophitis Helias Apsilos.
- 26 of July: The feast of Agios Panteleimonas in Cheronissos
- 14 of August: The feast of Panagia (Virgin Mary) (many synonymous monasteries of Sifnos celebrate). It is worth going to the feast of Panagia "to Toso Nero" (which means: So Much Water)
- 28 of August: The feast of Agios Ioannis Nisteftis in Faros
- 31 of August: The feast of Agios Simeon in Kamares
- 5 of September: The feast of Taxiarhis in Vathi
- 6 of September: The feast of Agios Sozon
- 8 of September: The birthday of the Virgin Mary at the Iera Moni of Vryssi in Exabela
- 13 of September: The feast of Stavros in Faros and in Choni
- 14 of September: The feast of Agios Nikitas in Seladi