Traditions in Crete

'Musical instruments series. Traditional Cretan lyra, isolated on white background. Vector illustration' - Crete
'Musical instruments series. Traditional Cretan lyra, isolated on white background. Vector illustration' nahariyani / Shutterstock

Crete is a large and beautiful Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea. A highly developed Minoan civilization flourished here around 2000 BC. Most of the people of Crete practice the religious traditions and celebrations of the Greek Orthodox Church. Crete also has some unique cultural and folk traditions, some of which are explored below.

Traditional dress - Sarika

A characteristic traditional dress in men and boys of Crete is the hand woven and knotted black headscarf or Sarika. It is worn in some remote villages and on special occasions, especially by dancers and musicians.


The Stivania are custom made leather boots used by men both for work and dancing. The boot is flexible around the ankle and so creases over time.


Many men of Crete have the long standing tradition of wearing a moustache.

Traditional folk music and dance

The traditional folk music of Crete is called Kritiki Musiki. It is unique to Crete and has atonal and Byzantine influences. This form is still performed in villages but has evolved into the very popular style of Horeftika or dance songs. The traditional folk music instruments are the lyra and the laouto. There is also a male singer and often a percussion player.

The five folk dancing styles are Sirto, Malavisiotiko, Pentozalis, Siganos and Sousta. Each of these styles has characteristic customs and patterns. For example, the Siganos is the wedding dance performed after the church ceremony. The Sousta is a pair dance. The Pentozalis or five steps is a very popular and powerful dance with jumps. Folk dances are performed in villages throughout the summer and many of the dances form a chain or circle where the dancers hold onto each others shoulders. The leader in the chain is generally the most accomplished and acrobatic dancer. The men of Crete also love to improvise short poems which are often sung, and their witty Mantinades are often good natured poetic duels.