The History of Christmas in Greece
Christmas in Greece is a time of joy and celebration. Dating back to 354 AD, when the birth of Jesus was declared to be celebrated on December 25th, it has become one of the most important holidays for Greeks. On Christmas Eve, families gather together to enjoy festive meals and share carols called “Kalanta” – one for Christmas Eve, one for New Year’s Eve, and one for Epiphany. In ancient Athens, the festival of Kronia used to take place on the 12th day of Hekatombaion and coincides with Christmas celebrations. The main symbol associated with this holiday is the “Karavaki” – a decorated boat that symbolizes a Greek maritime culture. On December 24th, kalanda begin to be sung throughout Greece in anticipation of Christmas Day. This day marks the beginning of many traditions associated with this special holiday including family gatherings and church services. Ultimately, Christmas in Greece is all about celebrating family traditions while embracing its long-standing religious history as well.
What to Eat to Celebrate the Holiday
Christmas in Greece is a festive and joyful time that is celebrated with an abundance of food! From meals and drinks to sweet treats, here are some traditional Greek Christmas dishes for you to experience the holiday season the right way.
Yiaprakia, also known as stuffed cabbage rolls in egg & lemon sauce, is one of the most popular dishes during this special time of year. This dish originated from northern Greece but can now be found all over the country.
Kourampiedes are butter cookies that are traditionally made to celebrate Christmas. Made with sugar, butter, flour and mastic (a resin obtained from trees) these sweet little treats will bring a taste of joy to your festive season.
Christopsomo is a decorated bread that is also eaten at Christmas in Greece. The bread is commonly made with cinnamon, cloves and walnuts which gives it its unique flavor. It’s often decorated with traditional Greek symbols such as crosses or figures of saints.
Beans with pickled cabbage, boiled wheat (known as koliva), rizopita (rice pie), fruit, onions and honey are some other dishes typically served on the holidays in Central Greece while jelly and tripe are popular appetizers elsewhere in the country.
So if you’re looking for something different this year or want to experience a cultural feast then make sure you try out these delicious dishes for your next Greek Christmas celebration!
Traditional Greek Christmas Decorations
Christmas is a special time of year for the Greeks, and it is celebrated with many festive decorations. Traditional Greek Christmas decorations include a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire suspended across its rim, sprigs of basil wrapped in colourful paper and tied to the tree or front door, as well as the decoration of Christmas boats. Greek Santa (Kalikantzaros) is also popular among children. Additionally, singing Christmas carols from door to door (Kalanta) is a beloved tradition in Greece. Although modern times have seen an increase in plastic decorations, many families still prefer traditional ones such as those mentioned above. All these decorations help bring the spirit of Christmas alive and make it truly special for the Greeks!
Visiting Local Churches During the Holidays
Christmas in Greece is a time for celebration, with local churches playing an important role. From the genteel Plaka and Cycladic areas of Athens to the village of Agios Panteleimonas in Florina, visitors will find plenty of joyous festivities. On the 23rd of December, locals gather to light bonfires at midnight and dance until the morning hours.
When it comes to traditional Greek Christmas treats, visitors will be able to sample delicious homemade delicacies such as loukoumades (honey dumplings), melomakarona (honey cookies), diples (fried pastry dough). Additionally, lights and decorations can be found throughout Greece during this festive time.
The Orthodox churches are especially beautiful during this time of year when they are filled with light, life and music. Churches remain open for both worship and private prayer as well as attendance on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and other special occasions. In Athens particularly, you can find many religious ceremonies taking place at St Paul’s Anglican Church or St George’s Byzantine Church for a truly magical experience.
Where to Go for Christmas Shopping in Greece
Greece is a great place to go for Christmas shopping! Athens is full of shops, taverns, and hotels that are perfect for a getaway during your holiday break. Retail stores and supermarkets throughout Greece will have special operating hours during the winter season. If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, visit the coastal town of Marousi or the Mall in Marousi (Neratziotissa stop on the green line). Athens may not be a traditional winter destination, but it still knows how to celebrate Christmas! Syntagma Square is the center of it all with its beautiful Christmas tree and confectionary stalls. Shops across Greece will be open on weekdays from 9:00am to 9:00pm so be sure to take advantage of all the great deals they have to offer while you’re there!
Celebrating with a Greek Carol Choir Performance
The Orfeas Choir was founded in Stockholm in 2005 and performs these classic Greek tunes every December. The 12-day festive period’s three major celebrations – Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Epiphany – are marked with caroling performances all around Greece. During these celebrations, children go out into their communities singing kalanda accompanied by brass ensembles and choirs to spread holiday cheer.
Participating in the Exchange of Gifts on New Year’s Day
Christmas and New Year’s in Greece is a time of joy and celebration, with the exchange of gifts being one of the most exciting customs. On New Year’s Day, gifts are exchanged as a sign of good luck for the upcoming year. It is traditional to exchange presents on January 6th which is known as Epiphany, rather than on December 24th or 25th. According to Greek tradition, Santa Claus (Agios Vassilis) brings these gifts. Gifts are not exchanged unless there is an established business relationship between the two parties involved.
As per Greek traditions connected with their Orthodox religion, Christmas is a time for family reunions and celebrations last up to twelve days until January 6th when presents are given to children on the night between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This custom has been around since ancient times and was associated with Saint Basil (Bishop of Caesaria). Today, this tradition still stands strong in Greece and people all over the country look forward to exchanging presents during this festive season!
Enjoying a Traditional Greek Feast on Christmas Eve
On Christmas Eve, families gather to enjoy traditional Greek dishes such as stuffed turkey or roasted pork served with potatoes and various side dishes. No Christmas feast would be complete without plenty of wine – the Greeks’ favorite drink!
The Christmas period starts on Agios Nikolaos Day (6th December). This day is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, a well-known saint who is said to bring gifts to children. He is often depicted holding a spoonful of honey, which symbolizes the joy and sweetness of the holiday season. As for Melomakarona, the name originates from the word Makaria meaning blessing, coming from ancient Greece.
Overall, enjoying a traditional Greek feast on Christmas Eve is an experience that can’t be beat! From savory stuffed cabbage leaves to sweet diples drizzled with honey syrup – there are so many delicious dishes to try! So why not gather your family around a table this year and share in the joys of this special time together?
Taking Part in Yule Log Rituals and Lighting Candles
Christmas is a time for special traditions, and one of the most beloved is the Yule Log ritual. This tradition dates back to ancient pagan celebrations in which large logs were burned to signify joy in anticipation of the longer and brighter days ahead. Today, this ritual can be done in many ways, from burning a real log to simply lighting candles.
On Christmas Eve, two or three young oaks are felled for each house and brought in as twilight comes on. The log can then be used as an altar, decorated with candles and evergreen boughs before it’s burned later that evening. This is often accompanied by other traditions such as St. Lucia’s Day honoring Christian martyrs where bonfires are lit to ward off evil spirits. Burning a Yule log was also believed to protect households from evil forces.
Finally, just before supper on Christmas Eve, while the Yule log is burning, all other lights are put out and candles are lit from the Yule log itself. This is symbolizes joy about longer and brighter days ahead – signifying hope for good fortune in the coming year!
Baking Delicious Greek Desserts for the Holidays
This holiday season, why not treat yourself and your loved ones to some delicious traditional Greek desserts? From melomakarona and kourabiedes to diples and kariokes, there is something for everyone to enjoy! Melomakarona are honey cookies that are a true delight during the holidays. Kourabiedes are buttery almond cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar. Diples are Greek pastries made with honey syrup and topped with chopped walnuts. And Kariokes, or Greek walnut-filled chocolates, make a great gift or snack over the Christmas season. Enjoy these treats while they last!
All in all, Christmas in Greece is an enchanting and festive event. Every December, the cities are transformed with festive lights, music in the streets, colorful and flashy windows, and huge Christmas Trees in Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki. Families take religious holidays and traditions seriously and will be full of spirit when celebrating Dormition of the Holy Virgin on August 15th. They will also go caroling from door to door locally known as Kalanda. With glamorous decorations and unique festive experiences, Christmas is a wonderful time to be in Greece!
Written by Vangelis Kotselas