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August 22, 2015

How Six Places in Mainland Greece Celebrate the Dormition on August 15th

The Dormition of the Theotokos, the Mother of all Christians as well as the Mother of all those who run to her in need, is celebrated in every part of Greece on August 15th with special brilliance.

Her death, burial, resurrection and transposition in the heavens has led to the description of this period as the Summer Pascha, with the faithful approaching the Dormition of the Holy Mother with the same solemnity.

Although the religious ritual is practically the same throughout the entire country, the manners and customs differ depending on the region and origin of the residents., referring to historical sources, sacred texts and faithful witnesses presents here some of the churches of mainland Greece that are dedicated to the Grace of the Panagia, describing how her memory is honored there today.

Panagia Soumela in Kastania Imathia

This is the place where is located every fifteenth of August the heartbeat of Pontic Hellenism. This is the Monastery that shelters the wonderworking icon of the Panagia by the Evangelist Luke, when it was moved here from Trebizond in Pontus.

In this historic church on the beautiful slopes of Vermio, the Summer Pascha is honored with the presence of thousands of faithful from all over Greece and abroad.

A litany with the icon takes place after Great Vespers on the eve as well as on the day of the feast of the Panagia. A Memorial Service follows to commemorate the victims of the Pontian Genocide as well as the emperors of Trebizond, in front of the bust of Alexander Ypsilanti.

Both days this place has a Pontian flavor, with unions from all over Macedonia who convert the religious celebration into an unforgettable feast, with all the events taking place within or in walking distance from the Monastery.

Panagia of Mikrokastrou in Siatista Kozani

There are two features to the celebration on August 15th which are commemorated by the faithful that find themselves in Siatista of Kozani on these days: the cavalry pilgrims and the brass musical instruments which with their unique sound give another dimension to the August 14th-15th weekend.

On the eve of the festival the squares of Chora and Gerania and the neighborhood of Bounou are filled with groups of pilgrim cavalry men on their decorated horses. This custom comes from the Turkish occupation, and as folklorists write, it was an opportunity for the enslaved Greeks to show their bravery and craving for freedom.

On the day of the feast the cavalry men go to Panagia Mikrokastrou in the morning to venerate the icon of the Panagia in the Monastery. A few hours later the cavalry men enter Siatista in an impressive manner where they are received by the authorities and the people. The festival has begun. The brass instruments do not stop however until late in the night.

Megali Panagia in Samarina Grevena

Perhaps the most touching thing that takes place on this great celebration of Christianity in the prefecture of Grevena is that the locals who live and work abroad return for the feast. It's like giving a tacit rendezvous once a year to commemorate the Dormition of the Theotokos in the Greek land.

It is characteristic that just before mid-August the deserted villages are filled with life!

And they all gather at the Megali Panagia in Samarina, where for three days half the heart beats in the county because the other half beats in the village Avdella where celebrations last for five days.

Dormition of the Theotokos in Palaiopyrgos Pogoni - Ioannina

On the religious level there is performed the customary services on the eve and the day of the Dormition. The people gather in the courtyard of the church and share their food. In the evening, on the day of the celebration, there are dances of the Pogoni dance groups of the area until the morning.

The difference in Palaiopyrgos is a certain custom, that of "Dolly Pasha."

The "Dolly Pasha" is one of the older residents who with wine glasses clinks with one of the attendants and drinks three sips. This is followed by dedicating songs to different believers, and slowly begins the wishes and dedications and from other inhabitants designated by the "Dolly Pasha."

Locals say that the custom was invented to dissolve the misunderstandings that have arisen in the village throughout the year, and to satisfy those who felt aggrieved.

Panagia Liaoutsianissa in Kymi Evia

The sacred temple is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos and is an enchanting majestic place. Older residents of the village say that the icon of the Theotokos washed up somewhere on the beach Mavra Litharia after the sinking of a ship coming from the East.

Today, locals and visitors on August 15th follow with solemnity the litany with the icon of the Theotokos.

However young and old wait for the festival that comes after. The smell of roast and beef stew permeates even the surrounding villages.

Panagia Kosmosoteira in Ferres Evros

This beautiful church is enlivened on the days of the Summer Pascha. On the day of the festival the area is filled with hundreds of believers, not only locals but also from other regions, arriving there to follow Great Vespers and the procession with the holy icon.

And when everyone has met their religious obligations, they partake of the food made by housewives of the village, and the feast begins. This feast lasts into the early morning hours, until the sun rises.

The Churches of Zagorohoria, Ioannina

The Panagia is honored in almost every corner of this place. Indeed in some villages the festivities last three days, where the traditions of Epirus dominate.

In Tsepelovo, the most populous village of Zagorohoria located at an altitude of 1,080 meters, on the first two days of the feast there are involved foreigners and locals.

But on the third day, the locals take the baton of the feast.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.