Christmas is considered the major festivity of the year, the most sacred and important. As most of the Greeks are Orthodox, they passionately celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25 and associate a strong religious meaning to this day.
But how do Greeks celebrate Christmas? Discover the main traditions of this beautiful country and plan your last-minute trip to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere of this magic period!
In Greece, the Christmas period starts on Agios Nikolaos Day (6th December) and ends on Epiphany’s Day. Saint Nicholas is a well-known Saint in Greece and his popularity is greater than that of Santa Claus, who is almost absent in Greek culture. Another strange aspect is that no Christmas tree is decorated in people’s houses: at its place, there are beautiful wooden sailing ships adorned with lovely details that symbolise the strong link between Greek islands and the sea. Surprising!
Even without Christmas firs, Greece presents some charming ambiances. Towns get embellished with colourful light, holiday decorations, music and traditional Christmas markets offering many beautiful gift ideas and handicraft items.
The big celebration begins on Christmas Eve, when children receive a bag and a wooden cane and go from door to door playing the “trigona”, a typical musical instrument. They sing some traditional Christmas songs called “calanda” or narrate popular poems about Jesus Christ to obtain some gifts from the other inhabitants. Usually, they receive dried fruit, special cookies called “kourabiedes” or some coins. On the evening, families gather to have a wonderful supper together and get ready to celebrate the day after, although they will abstain from eating meat as the Eve is the day of the fast.
Again, the family is the centre of Christmas Day’s celebrations: after the Mass, people prepare the delicious Christmas lunch cooking some local food specialities and spend the whole day together. Usually, Christmas tables present “gourounopoulo psito”, a roasted pork, the “galopoula”, which is a tasty stuffed turkey, “kourabiedes” and “melomakarono”, some good sweets made with honey, eggs, oil and flour. The lunch starts with a prayer and the cut of the “christopsomo” bread by the host, who wishes “chronia polla” to his relatives.
© Alice Pilastri