The customs and traditions of Syros bring color and joy to everyone lucky enough to experience them. Celebrating religious festivals and the changing seasons, they embody the spirit and diversity of an island that remains true to its roots. Events in Ermoupoli and Ano Syros and in villages around the island are as eagerly anticipated today as they have always been. Vibrant, solemn, energized, social … there’s a tradition for every mood in Syros. They often involve dancing and laughter and are always overflowing with life and generous amounts of food and drink. If you time your holidays in Syros to be a part of them, you can look forward to an unforgettable experience.
Favorite traditions and customs in Syros
The Carnival of Syros
Carnival season is a favourite time of year for all Greeks. It is part of the run-up to Easter, with costume-wearing and joyful parades in the streets. As always, Syros celebrates carnival in its own special way. There are a number of events but the highlight is the two-day parade of carnival floats in Ano Syros and Ermoupoli, with music, dancing and fancy dress. The following day is Clean Monday, the first day of Lent.
Other carnival traditions in Syros include the Zeibekia in Ano Syros (which involves the reenactment of the kidnapping of a bride as part of a satire against the Ottomans brought by Greek refugees from Asia Minor after 1821) and the Loukoumi Hunt in Ermoupoli (where participants search for a hidden loukoumi, the traditional sweet of Syros).
Another Clean Monday tradition takes place in Galissas, on the west coast of Syros, with the koulouma tradition of kite flying. It’s a custom that takes place on this day all over Greece, but Galissas has a special way of celebrating it, with a kite flying competition, followed by traditional dancing singing and Lenten dishes.
Everything about the Easter tradition in Syros is special. The devout atmosphere of the Orthodox and Catholic services make the celebrations unique and spending Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter Sunday) in Syros is the experience of a lifetime. Each day has its own traditions.
On Monday, the smell of freshly baked tsoureki (sweet Easter bread) and cheese pies wafts from households. On Tuesday, a choir sings beautiful hymns in the church of Agios Nikolaos in the Vaporia district of Ermoupoli. On Wednesday, you can wander the streets and see the colourful decorations in the churches. On Thursday, Orthodox churches decorate the Holy Bier (on which they lay a statue of Jesus) with flowers. And on Good Friday, the Holy Biers of both the Orthodox and Catholic churches are carried through the streets, culminating in Miaouli Square. On Holy Saturday, churchgoers bang their pews loudly to ward off the evil spirit during the First Resurrection Service and gather at midnight to light their candles and collectively celebrate the resurrection of Christ. And on Easter Sunday, everyone – families and friends – gathers to eat lamb roasted on a spit and crack eggs dyed red in recognition of the sacrifice of Christ and enjoy one of the highlights of the year.
The June 24th feast day of St John is celebrated with the klidonas custom of making a fire that locals leap over. The ancient ritual is said to have been used to determine the future spouse of unmarried village girls and is celebrated in Chroussa and other villages in Syros. The fires are also used to burn May Day wreaths.
On August 15th, when the national holiday of the Dormition of the Virgin (or Assumption of Mary) is celebrated throughout Greece, the village of Kini lights up with fotarides. The outside of houses are decorated with fire-lit lanterns made from tin cans and children are given the task of decorating the beach and terraces in the same way. Villagers and visitors then celebrate with live music and dancing long into the night.
Another long tradition in Syros is the preparation of pork specialities before Christmas. Based on the custom of not wasting a single piece of meat, the choirosfagia involves the slaughter of a pig and the preparation of sausages, louza (cured pork marinated in red wine with black pepper and other spices and served in thin slices), glyna (a type of lard) and pychti (pork jelly), which are used to make dishes that last through the winter and are eaten on cold winter nights. The choirosfagia festivities are accompanied by dancing, singing and plenty of local food.