Although there are some Greek holidays and festivals that are politically and historically based, most are connected with the Greek Orthodox Christian church and religion, which have been cornerstones of national Greek identity for almost two millennia.
And similarly, just as in the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire, there have long been Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim minorities in Greece as well.
There are many local holidays and festivals in addition to the widely celebrated National calendrical ones listed below.
First, however, a few words about two general, related types of celebrations found in Greece throughout the year and about the differences between birthdays and namedays.
The high frequency of annual saints' days, often celebrated with festivals of feasting and traditional folk music and dance (Pani-gee-ree) will be often noted by visitors to rural Greece.
These festivals are most often held at churches dedicated to the saints whose holy day is being celebrated, and are preceded by church services. In the summer such celebrations are held outdoors, often in the church courtyard, where tables and chairs are placed for the meal that traditionally precedes the music and dance.
Another name for such celebrations isYee-or-tee (from yeortazo: I celebrate), though the term is also used for the name-day (see below) and also for secular celebrations such as town festivals.
A church paneyiri is often celebrated on the eve of the saint's day, and travellers hoping to attend one will do well to note the date of the celebration on posters (so as not to show up the following day and miss the event) or to inquire of locals, or at the church..
Panee-geer-yia are open to everyone, foreigners included, and do not cost money to attend, though they should be distinguished from the 'glendi' (which simply means celebration), which can be either a free public event or one where tickets are sold, sometimes at a taverna or hall, the ticket often including food and drink along with the music.