Since it's the feast day of St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Patron of Thessaloniki, I'm interrupting the narrative about my trip to Kosovo for this post about the festivities for the saint in his city.
For many centuries, Thessaloniki has had the local tradition of celebrating a "Holy Week" for St. Demetrios, with services every day of the week leading up to his feast on October 26. On Friday evening, I went with Fr. Alexios to the Great Friday celebration, in which we sang lamentations around his relics, which were on the solea.
On Sunday, Fr. Alexios, Fr. Panayiotis, and I went down to St. Demetrios immediately after our Liturgy ended in Panorama in order to participate in the annual St. Demetrios parade.
During the procession, an icon of the saint and his relics, as well as--this year--a wonderworking icon of the Panagia which is visiting, were carried in army jeeps and accompanied by the army, the navy, the police, and of course, the clergy, which this year included about 12 bishops, 50 priests, and 10 deacons (just the ones vested).
In the photo above we are preparing to start the parade from the courtyard in front of St. Demetrios'. The parade then made a square along some of the city's main streets, which were shut down for the parade. People were lined up all along the way, and you could see many people standing in their balconies.
Many elderly people, who may have been housebound, watched from their balconies, holding lit candles and crossing themselves as the saint passed by.
You can see me to the right of the saint's icon.
Fr. Panayiotis, and Fr. Alexios to the far right, with St. Demetrios' in the background.
Me, next to the soldiers. Interestingly, priests of the Church of Greece are captains in the Greek Army, in the sense of chaplains. During times of war, presumably, some would be deployed to serve the needs of the soldiers fighting.
Here, you can see the marching band behind me. They were quite good.
The icon of the Panagia.
The saint's relics.
Some of the bishops.
Metropolitan Anthimos, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, blessing the faithful during the procession.
Many monastics also marched, including (above) the sisters of Panorama's Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
The choir sang hymns to St. Demetrios and the Panagia as the procession made its way back to the church.
Taking off vestments inside St. Demetrios'.
Me with (from left to right) Fr. Alexios, our spiritual father Fr. Spyridon, and Fr. Tikhon, a priest from Estonia who studied in Thessaloniki.
You can see more photos here.
Here's a 6-minute video of the end of the parade.