Halkidiki has a rich cultural heritage and every summer the whole region goes into festival mode, but at other seasons of the year, too, there are local revivals of customs and traditions which keep the old ways alive. From Kallikrateia to Ouranoupolis, from Marathousa to Kassandreia, the local people organize events and revive the old feast days and holidays with the same enthusiasm as their forebears, passing on the traditions to the younger generation. The new year is welcomed in with special rituals, with carol singers touring the villages, while at Palaiokastro they celebrate the Epiphany by leading a replica of a camel through the streets and ringing bells. At Agios Prodromos the men of the village sing the carols, whistle and dance through the village. At some villages there are community dances, and the priests walk from house to house blessing the homes with holy water to bring good health and prosperity.
The next main cycle of traditional events occurs at carnival time, with the best-known celebrations being at Polygyros, Simantra and Stratoni. Visitors come from far and wide to enjoy these folk traditions and to sample the delicious home-made sausages that are an integral part of the festivities! At the beginning of Lent, on what is known as Clean Monday, children fly kites and housewives whitewash their houses and tidy up their gardens as spring arrives.
Then at Easter the bells of Mt. Athos ring out in celebration of Holy Week, while the hotels open their doors to visitors, offering a wide range of holiday options. This is the time of year when nature returns to life after the long winter; the landscape is dressed in dazzling green, the scents in the air intoxicate one’s senses. At Yeroplatanos there is the special cherry festival, when the villagers hail the return of the sun. At Metangitsi there are three days of dancing and song, and a holy icon is carried in procession through the village. At Neohori you can enjoy the sounds of the traditional clarinet and drums, while at Nea Fokaia there are cultural events at the Byzantine Tower which carry on all through the summer till September, with exhibitions of painting, concerts and performances by theatre companies and dance troupes. The last week of July sees the swimming race across the Bay of Toroni, with swimmers from all over the world making the crossing from Kallithea in Kassandra to Nikiti in Sithonia. There are three major arts events each summer: the Sani Festival, on the Sani Hill, the Kassandra Festival in Siviri and the Festival of the Sea at Nea Moudania.