During the summer months, traditional festivals related to religion take place all over Greece, and the same applies to Zakynthos. One of the oldest, most significant, and renowned festivals on the island is the celebration of Agia Paraskevi, which takes place every year on the last weekend of July, as the Greek Orthodox Church also celebrates St. Paraskevi on July 26th.
This festival lasts for two days, unlike most other festivals on the island, which typically last only one day. It is famous for the active participation of locals and visitors who enjoy live music and dancing until the early hours of the morning. According to the local culture, the music and dance follow traditional local paths, but European dances like waltz and tango are also performed, remnants of the Venetians and the English who governed Zakynthos for many years and whose influence has become ingrained in the genetic code of Zakynthians.
For the locals, this festival is the most important event of the year. They eagerly await it and anticipate its arrival each year. It takes place during a period when agricultural work, which used to be the primary economic activity, is limited, allowing people to fully enjoy the festivities.
Overall, the residents of Agios Leon are music enthusiasts. In every house, you will find a musical instrument such as a guitar, mandolin, violin, or accordion. The village also has a rich collection of its own traditional songs that have been passed down through generations, from mouth to mouth and from one musician to another, throughout the ages. Additionally, they love dancing! It is widely known that the best dancers in Zakynthos, come from this small mountainous village.
During the festival, the locals set up tables and chairs in the Square next to the church of Saint Paraskevi. They bring their own food and homemade wine, exchange their delicacies and well wishes among themselves, and treat friends and acquaintances who come from other parts of the island to enjoy this grand celebration. They always leave space for dancing to foreign visitors. Everyone becomes one group and enjoys themselves wholeheartedly until the first light of day, when the church bell rings vigorously, proclaiming the end of the festival.
If you find yourself in Zakynthos at the end of July, we highly recommend taking a stroll through the Agia Paraskevi festival to experience a unique event up close and witness one of the many aspects of the local tradition and culture.