The greatest part of a Crete vacation is exploring new cultural holidays while learning about the history of the island – and having a wonderful time doing it. I am not one of those lucky people whose high-tech job takes me anywhere I want to go, all expenses paid. Instead, I join in with the majority of visitors to the island who travel only when they can afford it and when they can fit it into their schedule. For this reason, traveling to Crete during their holidays, festivals and celebrations is the best way to go as they celebrate one thing or another all year long. My schedule will always fit into one of them.
For starters, nowhere but in Greece can you go on a Crete vacation and end up celebrating your birthday with a devoted saint of a Cretan village at the same time. My birthday is on October 21, the birthday of Socrates in Greece. The village I was staying at invited me to participate in the village dancing, religious services and lots of Greek food to honor us both and two other people whose birthday was on the same day. If you have a suitable location, you can travel to several different villages and celebrate through the entire Crete vacation. The island culture requests that both men and women cover their legs and shoulders while attending the village churches, monasteries or religious ceremonies.
Cretan holidays occur on all year long in the villages, but the prime tourist season is from May to October with peak season around July and August. A big holiday for Greece is the Greek National Anniversary on March 25th, similar to the July 4th Independence Day in the United States. The Turks had occupied Greece for over 400 years, and this day was their victory in gaining independence. Marches and lots of celebrations are held everywhere to honor this day. Major tourist attractions are closed on this day. Locals and visitors eat fried bakaliaro and skordalia as a celebration meal … which is actually cod with garlic sauce.
Another major holiday in Greece is the Greek Orthodox Easter, considered to be their largest annual church holiday. Beginning on Good Friday, the residents of each village and town follow their religious Epitaph procession while carrying candles. Holy Week Saturday of the Lord’s resurrection always takes place in front of the village church in the courtyard of all of Greece and its islands with all the church bells ringing. An Easter tradition is to crack red eggs against each other – anyone who has the last uncracked egg will have good luck that year. Meanwhile, festive meals are cooked everywhere of roasted lamb with lots of wine. Crete is one of the few islands where the effigy of the Judas Iskariot is burnt as a special celebration on Easter day, with the entire day spent gathering sticks and branches for the event.
Getting a room in Crete or any of the other islands for a Crete vacation during any major holiday is an impossible task, unless you have booked a room in advance. This is especially beneficial if there is a holiday event being planned. The shuttle boats and ferry boats will be filled to the point of overflowing, and an epxerienced traveller is well aware of this.
I personally enjoy vacationing at the Plakias Bay Hotel in the little village of Plakias during Easter or any other major holiday. It is an extremely quiet region with lots of peace and quiet, friendly people, excellent service, and lots of things to do for a Crete vacation. The closest major events here are at nearby Rethymnon in July (wine festival) and August (the Sultana Raisin Festival). If I wish to go anywhere on the island for any of the festivals, I am only one day away. Other than that, I can remain in Plakias for all major holidays which every village celebrates.