Orthodox Easter, April
Hellenic Festival, June to August
Thessaloniki International Film Festival, November
August Moon Festival, August
Most islands snooze during winter. However, the capital and surrounding mainland are awake and welcome visitors with festivals that aren’t really aimed at tourists. Expect local insight and warmth from hospitality (rather than the sun).
Feast of Agios Vasilios (St Basil)
The first day of January sees a busy church ceremony followed by gifts, singing, dancing and feasting. The vasilopita (golden glazed cake for New Year's Eve) is cut; if you’re fortunate enough to get the slice containing a coin, you’ll supposedly have a lucky year.
Epiphany (Blessing of the Waters)
The day of Christ's baptism by St John is celebrated throughout Greece on 6 January. Seas, lakes and rivers are all blessed, with the largest ceremony held at Piraeus.
The villages of the prefectures of Rodopi, Kilkis and Seres in northern Greece hold a day of role reversal on 8 January. Women spend the day in kafeneia (coffee houses) while the men stay at home to do the housework.
While February is an unlikely time to head to Greece, if you like a party and can time your visit with Carnival, it’s well worth it.
Carnival starts three weeks before Lent, from mid-January to late February/early March. Minor events lead to a wild weekend of costume parades, floats, feasting and traditional dancing. There are regional variations: Patra's Carnival is the largest, while Skyros features men and their male 'brides' dressed in goatskins.
Clean Monday (Shrove Monday)
On the first day of Lent (a day which is referred to as Kathara Deftera), people take to the hills throughout Greece to enjoy picnicking and kite-flying.
The islands are sleepy but the weather is warming up, making March a relaxed time to visit. Although the national calendar is quiet, there are countless religious festivals celebrated with great gusto in towns.
The anniversary of the hoisting of the Greek flag by independence supporters at Moni Agias Lavras is celebrated with parades and dancing on 25 March. This act of revolt marked the start of the War of Independence.
The biggest religious celebration of the year is Easter, when the country, particularly the islands, shakes off its winter slumber. The holiday weekend is busy with vacationing Greeks; be sure to reserve well in advance.
Communities celebrate Jesus' resurrection with candlelit processions on Good Friday. One of the best climbs Lykavittos Hill in Athens. The 40-day fast ends on Easter Sunday with red-dyed eggs, firecrackers, feasting and dancing. Patmos' Monastery of St John is a great place to witness it.
Festival of Agios Georgios (St George)
The feast day of Agios Georgios (St George), the country’s patron saint and the patron saint of shepherds, falls on 23 April or the first Tuesday following Easter. It's celebrated with particular exuberance in Arahova, near Delphi. Expect dancing, feasting and a general party atmosphere.
If you're planning to go hiking, May is a great time to visit. Temperatures are relatively mild and wildflowers create a huge splash of colour. Local greens, vegies and produce fill Greek kitchens.
The first of May is marked by a mass exodus from towns for picnics in the country. Wildflowers are gathered and made into wreaths to decorate houses. It's a day associated with workers' rights, so recent years have also seen mass walkouts and strikes.
For festival-goers looking for contemporary acts rather than traditional village parties, June is hopping on the mainland. Top national and international performers fill atmospheric stages with dance, music and drama.
Celebrating their long relationship with the sea, fishing villages and ports throughout the country host historical reenactments and parties in early June.
Classical Music Festival
Featuring Greek and international performers, this classical-music festival in the Peloponnese uses the Palamidi fortress as one of its atmospheric concert venues. Check out www.nafplionfestival.gr for dates and details.
Feast of St John the Baptist
The country is ablaze with bonfires on 24 June as Greeks light up the wreaths they made on May Day.
Rockwave has major international artists and massive crowds. It's held in late June on a huge parkland at the edge of Athens.
The most prominent Greek summer festival features local and international music, dance and drama at the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens and the world-famous Theatre of Epidavros, near Nafplio in the Peloponnese. Events run June through August.
Hydra ignites in celebration of Admiral Miaoulis and the Hydriot contribution to the War of Independence. Witness a spectacular boat burning, fireworks, boat racing and folk dancing, held approximately the third weekend of June.
Temperatures soar and life buzzes on the islands' beaches, while outdoor cinemas and giant beach clubs draw visitors to Athens' nightlife. If you’re staying near the water, fill your belly with seafood that's hauled in daily.
Wine & Culture Festival
Held at Evia's coastal town of Karystos, this festival includes theatre, traditional dancing, music and visual-art exhibits as well as a sampling of every local wine imaginable.
Delphi Cultural Festival
Every July the European Cultural Centre of Delphi hosts a 10-day cultural festival with fine arts, a sculpture park and drama performances at its own open-air theatre.
Respect the heat of August – do a little bit less and relax a little more fully. If you’re travelling midmonth, reserve well ahead as Greeks take to the roads and boats in large numbers.
August Moon Festival
Under the year's brightest moon, historical venues in Athens open with free moonlit performances. Watch theatre, dance and music at venues such as the Acropolis or Roman Agora. The festival is also celebrated at other towns and sites around Greece; check locally for details.
Feast of the Assumption
Assumption Day is celebrated with family reunions on 15 August; the whole population is seemingly on the move on either side of the big day. Thousands also make a pilgrimage to Tinos to its miracle-working icon of Panagia Evangelistria.
The sun is high though less and less blazing, especially on the islands. The crowds begin to thin and some ferry schedules begin to decline midmonth. Fresh figs and grapes are in season and plentiful.
Gennisis Tis Panagias
The birthday of the Virgin Mary is celebrated throughout the country on 8 September with religious services and feasting.
While most of the islands start to quieten down, the sunny weather often holds in October. City life continues apace.
A simple 'no' (ohi in Greek) was Prime Minister Metaxas' famous response when Mussolini demanded free passage through Greece for his troops on 28 October 1940. The date is now a major national holiday with remembrance services, parades, feasting and dance.
Autumn sees temperatures drop. Olive-picking is in full swing in places such as Crete and feta production picks up, giving you the opportunity to taste some seriously fresh cheese.
Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Around 150 films are crammed into 10 days of screenings around the city in mid-November. The focus is on independent film-makers – the festival (www.filmfestival.gr) is gaining increasing notoriety.
The islands may be quiet but Athens and Thessaloniki are still in full swing. Expect cooler temperatures and a chilly sea. With fewer tourists, you're likely to meet more locals.
Traditionally, Christmas marked the end of a 40-day fast with honey cookies and a roasted hog. Today you are more likely to see Christmas trees, fishing boats decorated with lights and children carolling. Families gather for a Christmas Day feast.