Greece – A European Christmas Story

Christmas traditions in Greece honoured today- go back generations ago from islands, villages and cities.  Christougena, is Christmas in Greek and Greece has its own version of Santa Claus called: Saint Vasilis. Christmas starts on Christmas Day and ends on the sixth January.

Kalanda is the word for Christmas folk songs and carols are sung by children and adults about the birth of baby Jesus. In modern times children now ring doorbells and ask “Na Ta Poume” Shall we sing to bless households with Christmas spirit and good fortune.  Children and young people play drums and triangles as they visit homes where they live.

The preparing of Christmas bread: Christopsomo is made and in the olden days was made by housewives.  This was made with special yeast and dried basil; rosewater was also used in different parts of the country.  A separate piece of dough is made for the cross.  At Christmas Eve family gather around the bread and exchange wishes.  

The boat is also a symbol for Christmas in Greece and many people used to decorate their boats with Christmas decorations because it represents travelling into a new direction blessed by the birth of Christ. However, this tradition has been replaced by the Christmas tree over the past fifty years.

Many years ago pork was the prominent ingredient in the Greek Christmas feast , however, over the last fifty years turkey with stuffing has been implemented. Other foods including cabbage, dolmades made with rice, mince and egg lemon (Avgolemono). Vegetables, pies and pork are baked on the fire with leeks.

Many different types of pastry are eaten at Christmas including Theeples (Kind of fried pastry) and Paklaua (Sweet pastry).  Cheese pie and salad is also eaten.

Epiphany is celebrated on the sixth January around Jesus’s Baptisim and is known as “The Blessing of the Waters”.

A personal story:

By Dimitra Nicolaides

Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?

Christmas Biscuits:  Melomakarona these are like little honey biscuits and Kourabiedes – almond biscuits covered in icing sugar.  On Christmas Day we would have Turkey or Pork, along with vegetables and salad.

Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?

My fondest memory of Christmas was a nativity scene in central Athens, which along with the usual plaster models contained a live donkey.

Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family?

Gifts are exchanged on New Year’s Eve or New Years’ Day – they are usually small wrapped gifts.

Decorating boats at Christmas is an old tradition, as Greece is a seafaring Country and represents traveling in a new direction.

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