If you’ve visited Chios in the summer and didn’t go to a panigiri, you haven’t visited Chios. A panigiri is a traditional festival that is usually held to honor the patron saint of a village or church. It involves live music, tons of food, great company among friends and family, and more than enough alcohol. A panigiri can start in the morning after a church service and last all day, or it can start around midnight and end late the next morning.
In 2011, I spent two weeks in my mother’s village, Tholopotami, and went to two panigiria. The first was in the neighboring village of Agios Georgios Sikousis. I went with a bunch of cousins and a few friends. We arrived around midnight, ate some traditional Greek food, drank lots of ouzo, danced a lot, and the rest is kind of a blur. We ended up getting home at around 6am.
The second panigiri was in Tholopotami. It was just one day before I had to leave and go back to Istanbul. I walked down to the panigiri with my cousins at around 11:30pm and waited for our dinner to arrive. We had loukaniko, souvlaki, and a few other dishes, and washed it down with ouzo and beer. The dancing started at about 12:30am.
Five hours later, the dance floor was still packed with people and many of the tables were still full.
We watched the sun come up over the Aegean Sea and Turkey, and at 7am, we were still dancing and going strong. By then, the crowd had thinned out to about 20 people. We left at 7:30am and went directly to our beds and passed out. We later learned that the panigiri lasted until nearly 10:30am! The band didn’t stop playing until the very last people had gone home.