Customs & Festivities
Santorini has a tradition is preserved even today at its small village communities. According to journalist Mr Emmanuel A. Lignos, religious festivals called “agiomnisia”, traditional weddings with local instruments that accompany the procedures of the ceremony, local products, deserts, old wineries called kanaves where grapes are crushed, are some of the aspects of tradition that is still alive on the island.
Representation of the volcano’s eruption:
Municipality of Santorini organizes every August, usually after the 15th, a representation of the volcano’s eruption. The representation becomes extravagant with the use of fireworks and flares. A concert with well known Greek artists takes place at the end of the evening.
Representation of a traditional wedding
The ceremony of the traditional Santorinian wedding is represented during the summer in Akrotiri and Fira.
The preparations for the traditional Santorinian wedding begin many days before and culminate on the eve when the wedding dress is laid upon the wedding bed and the groom brings the chest containing his clothes to the bride’s house.
The day of the wedding, after the ceremony, the priest, the best man and the in laws head to the nearest vineyard. They have with them a jug filled with wine covered with a white headscarf and are accompanied by musicians. Once they reach their destination, the best man irrigates a vine with wine and the priest chooses and cuts two of its branches. Those branches must have many “eyes” representing the number of kids the couple will have. The priest then coils the branches in such a way as not to break them (breaking means bad luck). Next they drink the leftover wine and return to the house. There, the girls take the vine wreaths and start decorating them on the table of the hall. When the wreaths, which will be used in the ceremony, are ready, people go to the church except the seamstress who stays back to dress the bride and sew on her wedding dress a small piece of paper with the names of the waiting to marry single girls, written on it.
Extracts from the text of Emm. A. Lignos titled “Santorinian wedding”
Easter: Santorinian Easter traditions are not much different from the other Cycladic islands. All based in religious and the love of their customs.
Gοοd Friday in Pyrgos.
The burning of “Ovrios” (cloth-made human dummy): During Easter Sunday in many villages a court of the people of Ovrios is organized. They make a dummy of a man out of cloth who after being condemned to death is hanged and burnt.
In Santorini, as in many other islands of the Aegean Sea, people are deeply religious and they express their faith to Virgin Mary, Jesus and the Saints by building, or restoring, dozens of churches in the settlements and in the countryside. An additional reason for the residents of Santorini was that for centuries they lived under the fear of earthquakes and the erruptions of the volcano.
The religious festivals are organized in the church or in the festival-house (“panigirospito”) on the day a Saint is celebrated. In previous years this was an important event, because people didn’t have many other opportunities for entertainment. That’s why during the year many festivals were organized.
Preparations start one or two days before the celebration day. Following the cleaning of the church and before the vespers, the pictures are decorated with seasonal flowers and the church is ornamented with small and large colorful flags. In some villages the road leading to the church is laid with rosemary branches. If the church is public, money for the religious festival (“panigiri”) is raised from the residents. When private, expenses are fully undertaken by the owners.
At present the festival takes place after the service on the day of the Saint’s celebration.The preparation of the “panigiri” namely all the food offered to the worshipers, takes place in the “panigirospito” which is located beside the church.
Men cook in large cauldrons and serve the traditional fava beans, bean soup and capers. “Panigiri” often includes haddock, Santorinian tomato-meatballs, bread, cheese and tomatoes. The abundant wine is a must. Musicians also attended in the past, playing violins, lutes and bagpipes while other people used to dance and sing. The feasting went on all night.*
Festivals with plenty of food, music, wine and traditional dances take place during the days of great religious celebrations such as the Pagania Mirtidiotissa’s in Kamari, the Panagia Platsani’s in Oia, the Crosse’s in Perissa, the 15th of August celebration in several villages and in the monastery of Prophet Εlias. One of the biggest festivals on the island takes place during the celebration of 15th of August in Panagia Episkopi. The process of cooking fava and other beans in large cauldrons start on the eve of the celebration.
-The festival of Aghia (St) Matrona in Finikia.
-The festival of the Savior in Pyrgos: According to tradition on the eve of the celebration of the Savior, youngsters of the village steal from the girls’ courtyards pots of basil and use them to decorate the dome of the temple.
The most important festival is that of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven celebrated on the 15th of August in Kera. Other festivals taking place are those of Aghiou (St) Ioannou on the 24th of June in Manolas, Aghia (St) Irene on the 5th of May in Riva, the patron of Chora (Manolas) Aghios (St) Constantinos on the 21st of May, Prophet Ilias on the 20th of July in Kera, Panagia Giatrisa on the 21st of September in Potamos, Panagia of Presentation on the 21st of November in Agrilia.
The architecture of Santorini is a classic example of the traditional construction method of the Cyclades. It is called AGGLUNITATION. One understands “gluing together” the cubic houses by it and the buildings can have absolutely different bases and dimensions. The result is a ” regular irregularity “. The clear lines, combined with the white painting, in contrast to colorful doors and windows (often in blue) and countless flowers and blossoms paint the
typical image, which the Cycladic islands are famous for in the rest of the world. Austere construction specifications have removed the earlier necessity of the architectural style.
Wines of Santorini
Findings dating back 3500 years indicate the long tradition and history of viniculture and wine processing. The Santorini vineyard is therefore extremely old. As unique can be told the fact that these vineyards were not affected by the wine louse and consequently no American characteristics had to be planted to save cultivation as was necessary all over Europe.
Apart from this another factor that makes this wine region so unique is, together with the microclimate (limited rainfall), the porous terrain rich in pumice stone and lava. Currently vineyards cover 3,750 acres. Production per ¼ acre is low due to the microclimate. The amount of production of grapes is between 1,500 and 4,500 tons; 1,050 and 3,150 tons of wine.
At the beginning of the 20th century about 50 varieties were cultivated. Nowadays we count around 30, but only 5 are cultivated properly.
White wines: The island´s main variety is represented by the ASSYRTIKO (about 80 % of the grape production). The grape develops an excellent character in the special climate of Santorini and produces a wine with metallic elements, high acidity and a powerful body. The grapes mature from mid- to late August. The vines are impervious to drought and adapt easily to a wide variety of microclimates and soils.
The ATHIRI is a variety that originates from Crete and is used for mixing with assyrtiko to add aroma. The grapes mature between late August and early September. Wines made from Athiri can be high in alcohol and relatively low in acid with a delicate melon aroma.
The AIDANI Aspro may have originated in the Middle East. The grapes ripe in late August or early September. The must is relatively low in sugar and acids; the bouquet is reminiscent of jasmine. On Santorini this variety is often blended with athiri and assyrtiko to make dry wines and luscious, cask-aged VINSANTOS.
Red wines: The MANTILARIA is a vine variety that is one of the richest in color. It produces wines full of color and with medium alcoholic value. It is often used a coloring agent. The MAVROTRAGANO is a red indigenous variety producing alcoholic wines, high in tannin, medium acidity and good color.
Wines from Santorini fall into the category “Apellation of High-quality Origin”, which is the equivalent to the European Union´s V.Q.P.R.D. (vin de qualité produit dans une region determine). On the wine label you see the abbreviation AO.
The most famous wine, also AO rated is the NYKTERI– a traditional white aged wine made from Assyrtiko. The name goes back to when all the vinification procedure was carried out at night (nykta=night). The well known ASSYRTIKO ( also AO rated) has characteristic acidity and a metallic element in the mouth. The VINSANTO, the name is exclusive to Santorini), is a traditional sun-dried wine with a honey color, golden hue, a particular aroma together with a concentrated flavor of mature figs, raisins, plums etc.
Being on SANTORINI you should take the opportunity to visit one of the wineries.
BOUTARI WINERY of Santorini
This modern winery was built in 1989/90 by one of the most famous wine producing families of Greece. The winery can be visited all year round. During the winter it is open 10:00 to 16:00 hours in the summer from 10:00 to 19:00. There are organized tours available, in different languages including a multimedia show with an overview of the history of Santorini and winery. There is the chance for wine tasting and different items are available in the shop.
The Boutari winery is located on the road to Megalochori at the crossing to Perissa/Akrotiri. Tel: 22860 81011
Cultivated Varieties: Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mantilaria.
Wines: Kallisti, Selladia Boutari Estate, Boutari Assyrtiko, Santorini Boutari and Vinsanto Boutari.
ROUSSOS WINERY (Canava Roussos)
This winery was started in 1836 by the Roussos family and is one of the oldest. It is still family owned. Also the Roussos winery offers a tour with wine tasting and mezedes. The winery is open from the end of May until the end of September daily from 10:00 to 20:00. Speciality: At harvest time guests have the possibility to produce the must in the traditional way: with their feet.
The Canava Roussos is located in the village Mesa Gonia, there is a sign on the road towards Kamari to the right. Tel: 22860 31349
Cultivated varieties: Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mantilaria and some local varieties like Mavrotragano, Flaskia.
Wines: Caldera, Mavrothiro, Nykteri, Santorini, Rivari, Vinsanto, Nama.
This winery is in the North of the island. From the courtyard you have a magical view over the vineyard and the sea. It is open to be visited from April to November from 10:00 to 19:00 on weekdays and 11:00 to 19:00 on weekends. You can make a tour with wine tasting afterwards and there is also a small shop.
The SIGALAS ESTATE is located under the village of Finikas in Baxedes. Take the road to the right just after Finikas towards the sea (coming from Fira). Tel: 22860 71644
Cultivated varieties: Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mantilaria, Mavrotragano, Platanes.
Wines: Santorini, Santorini Barrel, Assyrtiko-Athiri, Niabelo Red, Mavrotragano, Vinsanto, Mezzo (biological production, blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, Athiri, sun dried and matured in wooden barrel).
ASSOCIATION COOPERATIVE OF THERAIC PRODUCTS-SANTO WINES
This cooperative is divided into different sections – apart from wine there is also a tomato and geotechnical section – and was founded in its present form in 1947. Organized tours take place from March to November and opening hours are 10:00-20:00. After the guided tour around the wine making site there is a wine tasting with view over the caldera.
This winery is located on the right a little before the turning point for Pyrgos on the road from Fira to Pyrgos.
Tel: 22860 22596, 22860 25218
Cultivated varieties: Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mantilaria.
Wines: Assyrtiko, Assyrtiko Reserve, Nykteri, Nykteri Bareli, Meltemi (semi-dry white or rosé), Vedema (dry white, rosé, red), Kameni (red), Vinsanto, Every year the cooperative experiments with new creations and blends.