Before visiting Crete, Greece’s largest island you know it is famous for the varied terrain. From fine-sand beaches like Elafonisi to the amazing and countless summits of the White Mountains. But how much do you for the Greek food and local festivals? Crete’s traditions are also known to stand strong without being changed throughout the years. The younger generation keeps all these traditions alive by honouring them and reviving them with every single opportunity they have. Most traditions connect to local festivals with some of the best food that you can try. And of course, local spirits to keep you on. We prepared a list of the most important ones:
Raki Feast (Rakokázano)
If you visit Crete between October and December, you will come across the distillation of the ‘’new Raki’’. Raki or tsikoudia is the most famous Cretan alcohol drink that is nearly synonymous say to the Cretan culture. This drink has Turkish roots and it’s made out of grapes boiled in the cauldron. They make it in small batches from nearly every family. They all gather the grapes in small distilleries that they have in the village. The distillation itself is a big event. Friends and family gather to cook and eat together. Drinking the fresh-made Raki and dancing is a must!
Sheep Shearing Festival (Kourá)
One more event that is purely Cretan and you won’t easily find it anywhere else. Known as the feast of sheep and it symbolizes the beginning of the summer. It’s a big event for Cretan shepherds to get all their friends together to eat and drink. The shepherd catches every sheep and ties their legs. The others shepherds shave off the sheep’s fur. It’s a local tradition to keep the sheep cool before the heat of the summer begins. They usually eat ‘’antikristo’’ and drink raki during this feast. They keep close to the ‘’Mitato’’; the place where they extract the milk from the animals and they make the local cheese.
Vine harvest (Trýgos)
Visiting Crete in September? The definitely join the vine harvest. Grapes harvest and wine production is a team activity between the vineyard owner and all the family members and friends. Everybody gets together to collect the grapes and after the hard work, it’s time for, of course, a feast with a lot of food and alcohol. Everybody gets together around the ‘’patitiri‘’ (the space to crush the grapes) and walk or run on the grape pile to extract the grape juice. During their breaks and the waiting for their turn, everybody drinks wine or raki, eats and dances. Did you check our Heraklio Wine Tour?
PS. Don’t forget to read why Greek wine makes us happy
Cretan Wedding (Gámos)
I’m sure you already know about Greek weddings and have read our post “Honey Honey”: Our big-honey weddings. A feast not to add to your bucketlist is the Cretan wedding.
The special think about weddings in Crete is the duration. The wedding starts 2 to 3 days before the main event, with the pre-wedding (Progamos) that all of the friends of the groom and the bride gather up together and having a big feast. Most pre-weddings take place in houses and end up as a big feast in the middle of the road underneath the house. Everyone is drinking and stopping around by-passers to join the fun.
The main event includes traditional Cretan clothes, Cretan dances and a lot of food and alcohol. One of the most interesting customs is the ‘’Charisma’’, and it’s an amount of money that the guests give out to the couple. Some delicacies that you cannot miss are the ‘’Xerotigano’’ (Fried dough strips with honey) and the ‘’Gamopilafo’’ (Slightly overcooked rice using water mixed with goat stew instead of just water). The wedding feast is endless and everyone around Greece knows how great experience a Cretan wedding could be.
If you are planning to visit Crete, take a look to Mansoureh Crete Travel Guide.