One of the most characteristic traditional customs of Sifnos are the feasts, and the ritual associated with them.
Feasts are not simply an expression of the deep religious feeling of the Sifnians, who entrusted their salvation against any external threat to the Saints, but also the main means of amusement, especially in earlier times, when the opportunities for amusement but also for expression of their amorous feelings were extremely limited.
On the eve of the feast of some Saint, the believers would attend evening services at the church and then have dinner as a group, at the traditional “trapezes” which recall the early Christian agapes. Dinner includes chick pea soup as the entry, and lamb in red sauce with potatoes or pasta as main course, (or cod with a cabbage salad if the fair is on a period of fast), all cooked on “panostria” (elevated fireplaces). The table is not complete without wine, of course, and traditional music (takimi, with violin and laouto), and the tables are set again and again until all of the attendants have eaten. People sing, dance, and have fun until the morning after. The expenses are borne by the “panigiras” (fair-man), or a ”brotherhood” of such people, and include the maintenance of the church throughout the year, cleaning and whitewashing for the fair, food, cooking, wine, payment for the musicians, priests and choir, and anything else. In exchange, the “panigiras” can keep the Saint’s icon in his house throughout the year. Someone else takes the icon then, and with it takes care of the expenses for the fair. This is a very popular custom, to the point that some churches have waiting lists spanning years. There are fairs throughout the year, but their majority, as well as the most successful ones, takes place from autumn to spring, and usually ones at faraway locations.
The greatest fair is the one for the patron of the island, the Virgin Mary of Chrissopigi (Panagia Grissopigi), which is celebrated on Assumption Day, and gathers people from all over the island and beyond.
Each year, on the eve of, and on Assumption Day, Sifnos celebrates the patron of the island, the Virgin Mary of Chrissopigi. On the evening of the eve, the miracle working icon of the Life Giving Spring (Zoodochos Pigi) is “lifted” from the house of the “panigiras”, and the “brotherhood”, along with the clergy and the believers head to the temple of Saint George in Kamares, where mass is held. Then the “panigiras”, the icon, and the clergy board the ship, which adds the holy Rock of Chrissopigi to its route on this day, on its way to Piraeus. The ship carries none of the faithful due to the danger of disembarking there, but the believers, local and visiting alike, head by road to Chrissopigi for the celebration of reception of the icon, with the Port Authority Band playing, and a Grand Celebratory Archbishop Evening Mass is held. This is followed by dinner (table of love) for everybody, followed by Prayer and a holy Wake. On Assumption Day, the icon is transported on a boat to Seralia at Kastro, where it is taken on a procession throughout the island.
Some of the traditional feasts (with Food and Sifnian music) of our island that are held during the tourist season are the following:
- May or June (moveable feast): on the Assumption Day, the fest of the patron of Sifnos, the Virgin Mary of Chrissopigi (Panagia Chrissopigi)!
- June 13: the feast of Saint Eliseus, at the homonymous church under Saint Elie (Aï Nilias).
- July 12: the feast of the Taxiarch at the homonymous church in Vathi and in Saint Silvestros (on the road to Cheronissos)
- July 17 (morning): the feast of Saint Marina, at the homonymous church at Flabouro
- July 19: the feast of the Prophet Elias at the churches of Saint Elias "Apsilos”, of Prophet Elias at Troulaki and of Prophet Elias at Kodou
- July 26: the feast of Saint Pantaleon (Agios Panteleimonas) at the church of Saint Polycarp in Cheronissos
- August 14 or 16: the feast of the Virgin Mary at the churches of Platanissa, of Toso Nero and of the Virgin Mary of the Sun (Panagia tou Iliou)
- August 28: the feast of Saint John at the churches of Saint John in Chori, Mavro Chorio, Siderou and the morning fair at the church of Saint John of Faros
- August 31: the feast of Saint Simon, at the homonymous church and at Pantokratoras (on the road to Platys Gialos)
- September 5: the feast of the Taxiarch, at the homonymous church in Vathi
- September 6: the feast of Saint Sozon, at the church of Saint Sostis at the Mines
- September 7: the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (Vrissiani) at the monastery of Vrissi
- September 13: the feast of the Holy Cross, at the church of the Cross (Stavros) in Faros, and in Choni on the road of Cheronissos
- September 15: the feast of Saint Nikitas, at the homonymous church in Seladi
Do not miss the chance to experience one of Sifnos' fairs. Ask us if there is a fair during your stay on our island, and enjoy a unique experience!