The Church of Virgin Mary

Agiasos, widely considered as the “mother” of the isle of Lesvos’ folk culture, used to organize many local celebrations in connection with the Christian calendar and folk traditions. Unfortunately, today’s modern lifestyle has put a damper on traditional forms of expression and creativity, while the commercialization of entertainment and the unprecedented social changes that have taken place in recent decades have contributed to the demise of many of these time-honored celebrations.

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The annual Panagia (Virgin Mary) Celebration
 

In describing the annual celebration of the Virgin Mary in Agiasos, and its effect of the Christian peoples of the Asia Minor, Kesarios Dapontes once wrote:

Smyrna and the East
and Ephesus and Chios
all flow into this celebration
every year.

The celebration takes place every year on the 15th of August. Beginning on the 1st of the month, pilgrims begin to arrive at the monastery’s cells and courtyard, as many of them spend the days leading up to the final celebration sleeping outdoors.
The entire town begins to get into a celebratory mood as the pilgrims arrive by any and all means available. Many of them travel from Mytilene and the island’s other villages on foot, taking in the beauty of the summer evenings on Lesvos. A favorite stop along the way is Karini, where almost all the pilgrims take a brief respite under the grand old (platanos) trees. From there, the most determined hikers take a steep old cobbled path, known as the “patomeni”, which is the most direct route to Agiasos through the olive groves. Merchants set up shop along the roadside, and the locals seize the opportunity to showcase their finest products, such as halva, sour apples, pears, nuts, as well as various local teas and condiments. People come and go through the night, oftentimes until the break of dawn, when a brisk breeze comes down the mountainside. The overall atmosphere is extremely festive and jovial, and definitely should not be missed.

Aside from the celebrations honoring the Virgin Mary on the 15th of August every year, Christmas, Easter and the early spring Carnival, another holiday that is celebrated by the locals is that of Profitis Elias (Prophet Elijah), on July 20th, whose festivities are organized annually by the Profitis Elias Riding Club of Agiasos.

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