Cretan feasts and festivals get inspiration from enduring traditions. They have dance, liquor and roast lamb, the dish that everybody eats on special days in Crete. The lyre and the lute resound everywhere on the island, and white garlands hang on house façades and canopies, inviting everyone to join in the celebrations.
Major events in Crete
- February – Carnival in Rethymnon: Carnival celebrations in Rethymnon are a hundred years old. There is a fancy dress parade that departs from the nice Venetian port of Rethymnon and then a treasure hunt for children and adults.
- 8 April – Greek Easter: Easter is a significant religious feast in Crete. Good Friday is particularly attractive in Heraklion, where they burn Judas dolls in the squares, and in Agios Nikolaos, where they burn them by the lake. On Saturday, they light holy candles and on Sunday, the families gather to eat roast lamb for lunch.
- 1 May – Anthonero Day: ‘Anthonero’ is the name given in Greece and Cyprus to orange blossom water. The main events take place in Fournes, in the region of Chania. You can see how they distillate orange and lemon blossoms and also you can try local cuisine.
- Early June – Sheep shearing: Sheep shearing is a tradition that has become a colourful and lively feast in Crete. Of Minoan origin, this feast is held in many Cretan villages, which get filled with traditional music, cheese and wine.
- June – Cherry Festival in Karanos: A must-attend festival for cherry lovers. With the best cherry orchards on the island, Karanos gets all decorated to hold this major popular festival.
- June/August – Kornaria Cultural Festival: Kornaria is a series of cultural events held in the charming village of Sitia from early June until late August. Events include theatre plays, music and dance performances, painting exhibitions and sports events like the Kornaria race, which gathers athletes from all over Greece.
- 1-15 July – Wine Festival: From 1 to 15 July, Crete plays host to the great two-week celebration of Cretan wines and other local products. Also in July, the island holds a well-known international chess tournament.
- 13 July – Sardine Night: Traditional folk music and dance… plus sardines. This is one of the liveliest and funnies summer events in Crete. Locals and tourists mingle in a relaxed atmosphere where good food and endless chatter are the protagonists.
- Late July – Elafonisi Festival: In July they hold one of the largest festivals in Innachori, an area of Chania. They pay tribute to the monument in Elafonisi and run athletics tournaments, open-air shows and traditional music performances.
- 15 August – Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Crete: There are celebrations nationwide. Local people play instruments like the lute or the lyre and drink the local liquor, raki. On this day, as on other festive days in Crete, the star dish is roast lamb.
- September – Tourist Day: The region of Chania celebrates the end of summer with a feast dedicated to the tourists that come to spend their holidays in this beautiful area in Crete. There are concerts, games and dance, and, of course, local food and wine.
- October – Raki Festival: The Raki Festival comes right after the grape harvest. People gather before the distiller’s place bringing grapes for him to make the season’s first drops of the traditional liquor, raki. While they open bottles from previous years, they eat traditional food and play music.