Most people all over the world usually think of Greece when it is summer time and they need to choose a perfect beach or seaside area to explore. We never associate it with winter, let alone Christmas time. However, Greece has so much to offer with its rich traditions during this magical time of year.
While some traditions do not differ from other nations’ Christmas celebrations, there are some that are unique and very interesting to learn about and to be a part of.
Did you know that Christmas in Greece is traditionally celebrated by decorating boats instead of trees? Since most Greek men were sailors in the past and Greece is surrounded by three seas, people today use real boats or make model boats to decorate. It symbolizes respect for the sea and hope for reuniting with loved ones. Of course today, Christmas trees are equally put up and celebrated.
There is another old custom that is performed today where children go door to door and sing christmas songs (carols-kalanta). They sing about Christ’s birth and praise for the householdIn return, people give them small gifts (some money, nuts, figs or Christmas cookies).
Kalikantzari are naughty Christmas elves who come on Earth on Christmas day and stay until Epiphany (January 6th). They come into people’s houses from the center of the Earth through the chimney. They do annoying things like put out the fire or spoil the milk so you should always keep the fire burning during those 12 days.
While most Greeks traditionally serve pork as a main meal, we are sure that you know that one cannot imagine Christmas in Greece without traditional cookies- kourabiedes (butter cookies covered in sugar) or melomakarona (cookies made with honey and covered with chopped walnuts) .
Christopsomo (Christ’s bread) is another speciality, dating from Ottoman times, traditionally served during this festival. It is a round sweet bread loaf with a dough cross in the centre and made with cinnamon, orange, nuts and almonds to celebrate prosperity. Depending on the area, there could be other characteristics of this bread while housewives try to make it different from everyday bread. Christopsomo is made on Christmas Eve to be eaten on Christmas day.
We hope you are enjoying this wonderful festival with your loved ones and with peaceful thoughts.
Kala Christougenna from the Visit Sithonia team!