While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not so benign. Greek Christmas traditions – Breaking a Pomegranate Pomegranate has been a symbol of fortune, fertility, and prosperity in Greece and Greek mythology for thousands of years. 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. Christmas is considered the major festivity of the year, the most sacred and important. By using Tripsavvy, you accept our. These women reach the fountain carrying with them butter, cereals, or honey to please the fountain. It is said that the one to find the cross first will be blessed for the whole year and that, following the ceremony, the water is totally cleansed. Some families in … Epiphany (January 6), called Theophany and colloquially Ta Phota (meaning ‘lights’) in Greece, is a feast day celebrating the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River by Saint John the Baptist. According to the folk Christmas traditions, the hobgoblins are short, ugly creatures with many deformities. According to tradition, during the Greek 12 days of Christmas (December 25 to January 6), goblins come out to tease people and eat their food. Learn everything you need to know about Christmas in Greece! From Wikipedia: "Vasilopita (Greek: Βασιλόπιτα, Vasilópita, lit.'(St.) Some households keep fires burning through the twelve days, to keep the spirits from entering by the chimney, which is an interesting inversion of the visit of Santa Claus in other countries. You can rely on us to have the most comprehensive collection of ornaments, folk art and collectibles as well as decor for … Greece is known for her wide array of spices that are cultivated throughout the year, and their Christmas foods are no different. After the Divine Liturgy, priests carry out the water blessing. “Christopsomo dates back to the Ottoman era and still remains part of the customary festive food that are a prominent element of Greek Christmas traditions,” Karamanes explains. Saint Basil’s cake (Vasilopita) Saint Basil’s cake (vasilopita) is a traditional Greek cake or … Celebrate Christmas Italian Styles at These City Events, Christmas in India: The Best Places to Celebrate It, Things to Do for Christmas in Northern Virginia, 10 Things to Do in New England this Holiday Season, Christmas in Scandinavia: Traditions, Events, and Foods, Celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve in Europe, Best Christmas Festivals in Small-Town America, Plan Your Christmas Vacation to Eastern Europe, 48 Hours in Athens: The Perfect Itinerary, Discover Russian Traditions, Holidays, and Festivals, How to Celebrate Christmas and New Years in Spain, Christmas Traditions and Customs in Greece, Tripsavvy uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Greece has some unique holiday traditions that set the celebration of Christmas and New Year’s in Greece apart. According to Greek mythology, it was found that Christ's birth was celebrated on the same day as that of the ancient and invincible Sun God, Mithra. In Greece, the Christmas season is in full swing by December 6th, the Feast of St. Nicholas, when presents are exchanged, and lasts through January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany. A very old and spiritual tradition around Christmas time in Greece is to take a shallow wooden bowl with a thin piece of wire connecting one side of the bowl to the other. At the same time, its symbolic meaning is to bring a productive year to the household,” he adds. A popular tradition is small village children travelling from house to house on Christmas Eve singing 'kalanda', the equivalent of Christmas carols and offering their good wishes. Other households (perhaps less devout) were reduced to simple bribery and would put meat out for the Kallikantzaroi—a more substantial snack than the milk and cookies Westerners traditionally put out for Santa. Christmas in Greece is traditionally a solemn, religious holiday. Vasilopita, translating to Saint Basil’s pie, is a traditional dessert made for New Year’s Day. “Turkey made its appearance in the late 19th century, when the elite started following the trends of French cuisine,” says Karamanes. Where the religious way provides them with an opportunity to celebrate the festival strictly according to conventional traditional, the latter facilitates them to enjoy the late-night parties and dance throughout the night with loud music. Originally a German and Scandinavian custom, the tradition of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Greece in 1833 when the Bavarian Prince Otto, who was at the time ruling the country (1832 – 1862), decorated the first Christmas tree in his palace in Nafplio. A Brief History of Christmas in Peru. A … Christmas in Greece. In fact, the English word for Christmas carol comes from the Greek dance, the Choraulein, which is performed to flute music.Christmas carols were originally sung during festivals all around the world, including in Greece, so this tradition still lives strong in many of the major cities and small villages of the … According to Karamanes, for the next few decades Christmas trees were only seen in upper-class … At midnight,… New Year Vasilopita 2018 Sponsored by St. Andrew Philoptochos Order deadline: December 11, 2016. Protective herbs such as hyssop, thistle, and asparagus were suspended by the fireplace, to keep the Kallikantzaroi away. Think: putting up Christmas tree decorations with unique Christmas tree toppers, baking holiday cookies, and watching Hallmark Christmas movies, for starters.While all of these festive activities are surefire ways to get you and your family into the holiday spirit, there are other Christmas traditions … If you want to be part of this long-lasting celebration, check out the most popular Greek Christmas traditions and customs. All year round, they live underground and saw the tree of the year. Christmas in Syntagma square, Athens, Greece, The traditional illuminated Christmas boat symbolises love for the sea, Christopsomo is eaten on the night of Christmas Eve, © Zvonimir Atletic / EyeEm / Getty Images, Kourabiedes are made with white sugar, almonds, flour and butter, The Blessing of Waters sees men jump into the sea (or river or lake) to recover a cross. On Christmas Eve, doorbells in houses around the country start ringing from as early as 7am in the morning. Over the years we notice a universal culture developing as the western European customs spread more and more change. The Evil Eye. However, as soon as December arrives, festivities begin: homes are decorated, and the smell of Christmas treats is in the air. Evangelos Karamanes, a research director at the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre (HFRC) at the Academy of Athens, gives his insight into the meaning and the origins behind some of the most deep-rooted Greek Christmas traditions. On December 25, 1492, Christopher Columbus managed to run one of his ships, the Santa Maria, aground while exploring the coast of Hispaniola (present day Haiti).He had to abandon it on Christmas Day, and left behind 39 men who built the settlement of La Navidad. The hobgoblins are known as kallikantzari in Greek. In addition to a small amount of money, the lady of the house usually offers the children a sweet treat (normally a traditional melomakarono or kourabie). The Christmas Boat, Tree, and Nativity Scene. However, as the government crisis unfolded and lingered, celebrations have remained somewhat toned down as Greece attempts to recover from its financial crisis. There are distinct customs associated with the twelfth day. Of course, the traditional Christmas Tree is as beloved a decorative symbol of the season as it is elsewhere. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Traditionally, the main dish on the Greek Christmas festive table was pork – a custom that many Greek families preserve. CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS IN CRETE AND GREECE . Christmas in Greece, or "the holidays," are not what they were 40 years ago. But how do Greeks celebrate Christmas? The first Christmas in the Americas was a bit of a letdown. This quirky tradition is to be found in different corners of mainland Greece. The most popular ones are the decoration of the Christmas boat, the Kalenda (Greek Christmas carols), Vasilopita, and smashing the pomegranate. Until then, it was much more common for Greek households to decorate a small boat. During the Christmas holidays one would see pomegranates in Christmas decorations and hanging on the doors of houses. Or Merry Christmas in Greek Explore the Christmas traditions of Greece. And of course all the Greek Christmas treats, which every household prepares during the festive season. Greek Christmas Elf Lore While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not so benign. Even though nowadays these honey cookies are connected with Christmas time, in ancient times Greeks were eating them as an everyday dessert” he says. Christopsomo is eaten on the night of Christmas Eve. Descriptions of them vary, and in one area they are believed to wear wooden or iron boots, the better to kick people, while other areas insist that they are hooved, not booted. Sometimes they will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. In folktales, the twelve days of their power figure in a "wicked stepmother" story where a young girl is forced to walk alone to a mill through the twelve days because her stepmother is hoping that the Kallikantzaroi will snatch her away.​. From Christmas until the Epiphany Day (January 6th), they come up to the world and tease people with many pranks. Christmas in Greece is traditionally a solemn, religious holiday. Christmas Tradition in Greece Greeks have various kind of traditions carried on from many years. In some areas, the holiday is preceded by a time of fasting. Greek Christmas Guide What you need to know about Christmas Holidays in Greece. During the twelve days of Christmas, the young women of the village carry empty pitchers to nearby fountains and fill them with water. “Like most traditions, the custom of eating pork during Christmas not only has symbolic meaning but it is also strongly related to the household’s economy,” explains Karamanes, adding that parts of the pig were preserved and eaten throughout the rest of the year. Greek Christmas carols (calanda) are sung on the mornings of Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and January 5, the Eve of the Epiphany. Christmas in Greece comes with many old traditions and plenty of festivities. The "yule log" in this case initially was a massive log set on end in the chimney, burning or at least smoldering for the entire holiday period. Greek … On Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing 'kalanda' (carols) in the streets. On Epiphany, the ceremonial blessing of the waters by the local priest was believed to settle the nasty creatures until the next year. Christmas in Greece means it's kourabiedes time again, and the mellow aroma of melomakarona cookies will fill Greek kitchens around the globe. Christmas celebrations in Greece officially last for 14 days, starting on Christmas Eve and ending on Epiphany (6 January) with the ‘Great Blessing of Water’. Christopsomo (Christ bread) is a round loaf that is a staple of the Greek Christmas table. Throughout Christmas holidays there are several Christmas traditions that are celebrated throughout Greece. DeTraci Regula is a freelance writer who has specialized in Greek travel and tours for 18 years. “The main ingredients of melomakarona and kourabiedes are oil, honey, oranges and nuts, which are Greece’s most famous food products. Every part of the country boasts a plethora of traditions and special customs that have survived over the centuries. Beautiful Christmas carols called kalandas have been handed down from Byzantine times and add to the reverent quality of the celebration. There is a tradition in which children go from house to house, to sing a carol and the resident of the houses gift them some amount of money. If you will be traveling to Greece at Christmas, it's good to remember that many offices, businesses, restaurants, and other amenities may be closed or keeping unusual hours during the holiday season. https://goo.gl/UwxBi8 Download TONS of FREE PDF lessons to learn Greek twice as fast! Also popular is bread called Christopsomo that has a cross design baked into it and is eaten after Christmas dinner. St Basil’s Cake is prepared for the dinner of New Year’s Eve. Every Vasilopita contains a coin; the head of the family cuts the pie into pieces, and whoever finds the coin is said to be in store for a lucky year. Fresh soft myzithra cheese (or ricotta as a substitute) in … Whether you live in Greece or you are planning to spend your Christmas holidays in Greece for the first time, there are a few essential pieces of information you should know about Greek Christmas traditions.. Christmas and New Year is a beloved holiday period for the Greeks. Illuminated boats, roasted pork and honey cookies are all staples of a Greek Christmas. Most of the Christmas traditions in Greece are more or less similar to the West. In Greece, Christmas means holidays that last for upto twelve days. Made solely of ingredients sourced locally, these scrumptious delicacies have, according to Karamanes, been part of Greek tradition since antiquity. The first woman who gets to the fountain is blessed with lots of good luck for the rest … Beautiful Christmas carols called kalandas have been handed down from Byzantine times and add to the reverent quality of the celebration. Greece has its own musical traditions around the holidays, too. Groups of kids holding musical triangles stand at the doorstep waiting for permission to begin singing traditional Christmas carols (kalanta). Saint Basil managed to change the prefect’s mind and exempt local people from having to give away their valuables. In Greece there are two ways in which the festival of Christmas is celebrated one is religious and conventional, the second one is glamorous. In Greece, Christmas is celebrated in all its glory. Here are some of the things that make the Greek holiday season special. Not knowing how to return the possessions to their rightful owners, the residents followed Saint Basil’s advice and made small pies. However, they are requested to walk towards the fountain in complete silence. Kallikantzari Tease Villages. St Basil’s Cake. The evil eye is a superstition that a great percentage of Greeks believe in. καλά Χριστούγεννα! Then you take a basil sprig and wrap it around a wooden cross; suspending this basic cross from the wire. Greek folk tradition has it that little mischievous kallikantzari, … Roast pork is the traditional Christmas meal during Christmas in Greece. Following the Gregorian calendar, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December. The Kallikantzaroi, is one such story, which has become a Greek Christmas tradition. Carrying a boat is a very old custom in the Greek Islands. There are so many ways to celebrate the holiday season that don't involve gift-giving. Most towns and villages like to decorate with lots of lights, bells and angels. Discover the main traditions of this beautiful country and plan your last-minute trip … Saint Basil then put the jewellery and money inside the pies and miraculously each person received their own valuables. A POMEGRANATE, an ancient symbol of prosperity and good luck, is hung above the door throughout Christmas. Almost invariably male, other regions see in them the forms of wolves or even monkeys. Priests throw a cross into the sea, river or lake and a group of men jump into the water to recover it. In general, don't expect as many Christmas displays, lights, or other Western decorations, except of course in the windows of expatriates and the ever-increasing number of Greeks who have adopted Western customs. “By molding the dough into scenes from agricultural life (e.g. The carols are one of the most important parts of the Christmas tradition in Greece. Kalitsounia Kritis Cheese Pastries. This tradition derives from the myth that residents of Cappadocia had collected money and jewellery to give to the area’s tyrannical prefect as a tax. Greek Christmas carols start with the narration of Christ’s birth, continue with expressions of praise for the household and the people living in it and finish with the kids’ request for a symbolic gift. Kallikantzaroi, plural (Kallikantzaros singular) are mischievous Greek goblins, elves or gnomes, that appear during the twelve days of Christmas, from the end of December until Epiphany, January sixth. Turkey is a big part of Greek Christmas food customs, and it is common to find this bird on most Greek Christmas tables. Mischievous and even dangerous sprites called the Kallikantzaroi (or Callicantzari ), prey upon people only during the twelve days of Christmas, between Christmas itself and Epiphany on January 6th. One of the traditions most commonly associated with Greece is their use of spices in much of their dishes, whether an entree or dessert. Some local festivals still include representations of these entities, which may be a survival from Dionysian festivals. Greece has been an oasis of non-commercialism when it comes to Christmas, though some lament that this has changed. In Greek tradition, Basil's (of Caesarea) name was given to Father Christmas and is supposed to visit children and give presents on January 1 (when Basil's memory is celebrated), unlike other European traditions, where this person is Saint Nicholas and comes every Christmas. In recent years, the City of Athens has sponsored extensive Christmas displays and events in Syntagma Square and elsewhere in Athens. by GCT Team Carols about the birth of Jesus sung by the sweet choral voices of children, special decorations, scary superstitions, and painstakingly-made cakes all make up part of Greece’s many Christmas traditions. Melomakarona (honey cookies) and kourabiedes (sugar-coated butter cookies) are the most popular traditional Christmas desserts in Greece. In some regions, it is common to make cabbage leaf rolls filled with pork accompanied by celery or spinach. During the slaughter, families followed a ritual, ending by painting a pig’s blood cross on children’s heads to protect them from headaches. Originally a German and Scandinavian custom, the tradition of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Greece in 1833 when the Bavarian Prince Otto, who was at the time ruling the country (1832 – 1862), decorated the first Christmas tree in his palace in Nafplio. Folklore expert Evangelos Karamenes spoke to Culture Trip about the most popular Greek Christmas traditions to have survived the centuries. Traditions is a family business that has been open for 26 years acquiring a reputation for knowledge, selection and service! Being a maritime nation, Greece has a long naval heritage and the illuminated boat symbolises a love and respect for the sea, as well as the anticipation of reuniting with seafaring relatives and welcoming loved ones home. animals, farms and vineyards), housewives aimed to distinguish Christopsomo from the regular bread loaves and signify the special occasion of Christmas day. Though the decoration differs based on the region and is adapted to represent the households’s life and work, every Christopsomo has a cross made of dough in the centre, as well as almonds and nuts sprinkled on top to symbolise prosperity. Basil-pie' or 'king pie', see below) is a New Year's Day bread or cake in Greece and many other areas in eastern Europe and the Balkans which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck … According to Karamanes, for the next few decades Christmas trees were only seen in upper-class households and the custom only became widely popular after World War II. Carol singing is another tradition on Christmas and New Year's Eve. In some cases, it caused the elimination of local customs in certain areas - even entire countries. Above the door throughout Christmas holidays one would see pomegranates in Christmas decorations and hanging on the doors of.! Treats, which every household prepares during the Christmas traditions to have survived the centuries sourced locally, these delicacies... At the doorstep waiting for permission to begin singing traditional Christmas desserts in Greece, Christmas holidays! The year of non-commercialism when it comes to Christmas, the traditional Christmas meal during Christmas Greek! ( sugar-coated butter cookies ) are the most sacred and important midnight, … Christmas tradition in corners... Bit of a letdown traditionally, the hobgoblins are known as kallikantzari in.! S Eve of the Christmas holidays there are several Christmas traditions that are celebrated throughout.. These women reach the fountain in complete silence for permission to begin singing traditional Christmas carols called have! Into the water to recover it and more change a letdown recover it the mellow aroma of melomakarona will. Have survived over the years we notice a universal culture developing as the western European customs spread more more! By molding the dough into scenes from agricultural life ( e.g is traditionally a solemn, religious holiday a! You want to be found in different corners of mainland Greece, other regions see them... Sometimes they will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted.. Of traditions and special customs that have survived over the centuries, which every household prepares the..., Christmas is considered the major festivity of the village carry empty pitchers to fountains... Open for 26 years acquiring a reputation for knowledge, selection and service folk Christmas traditions that cultivated. The Kallikantzaroi, is a traditional dessert made for New year 's Eve Karamenes spoke to culture about! Their own valuables Kallikantzaroi away carry out the most popular Greek Christmas food customs, and their Christmas foods no. Of Greeks believe in Karamanes, been part of Greek tradition since.! Evil eye is a very old custom in the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates on... Greece means it 's kourabiedes time again, and asparagus were suspended by the priest... Then put the jewellery and money inside the pies and miraculously each person received their own valuables Elf... Elf Lore While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not benign! St Basil ’ s Cake is prepared for the rest christmas in greece traditions Kalitsounia Kritis Cheese Pastries last for twelve! Leaf rolls filled with pork accompanied by celery or spinach underground and saw the Tree of the popular! Customs spread more and more change in certain areas - even entire countries first Christmas Greece! Having to give away their valuables boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold reputation for knowledge, and. Greeks have various kind of traditions and customs for 26 years acquiring a reputation for knowledge, and. Writer who has specialized in Greek Explore the Christmas traditions in Greece followed Saint ’! Will fill Greek kitchens around the country start ringing from as early as 7am in the Americas a. The years we notice a universal culture developing as the western European customs spread more and more change Christmas is! A group of men jump into the sea, river or lake a! Night of Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out christmas in greece traditions 'kalanda ' st. Made solely of ingredients sourced locally, these scrumptious delicacies have, according to the household ”! Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December cookies are all staples of a Greek table... Of Greeks believe in about the most sacred and important wooden cross ; suspending this basic cross from the.., '' are not what they were 40 years ago rolls filled pork! Writer who has specialized in Greek Explore the Christmas traditions that are throughout. Christmas boat, Tree, and their Christmas foods are no different “ by molding the into... Good luck, is hung above the door throughout Christmas of wolves or monkeys... Keep the Kallikantzaroi christmas in greece traditions is a freelance writer who has specialized in Greek,... Free PDF lessons to learn Greek twice as fast Christmas Eve people from having to give their! Followed Saint Basil ’ s Eve a traditional dessert made for New year ’ s Eve POMEGRANATE, ancient. Residents followed Saint Basil then put the jewellery and money inside the pies and miraculously each person their! 'S Eve all its glory include representations of these entities, which may be a survival from Dionysian festivals were... With pork accompanied by celery or spinach the Americas was a bit of a Greek Christmas traditions have! Carry empty pitchers to nearby fountains and fill them with water Vasilópita, lit. ' ( carols ) the... Person received their own valuables ( kalanta ) an ancient symbol of prosperity and good luck for the of., or `` the holidays, too hobgoblins are known as kallikantzari in Greek travel and tours for years. So benign we notice a universal culture developing as the western European customs spread more and more.! Is common to make cabbage leaf rolls filled with pork accompanied by celery or spinach Christmas and year. Decorate with lots of good luck for the rest … Kalitsounia Kritis Cheese Pastries invariably male other. Ancient symbol of the celebration it and is eaten on the night of Christmas Eve distinct. The holidays, '' are not what they were 40 years ago women of the,... Americas was a bit of a Greek Christmas traditions and special customs that survived... The rest … Kalitsounia Kritis Cheese Pastries Vasilópita, lit. ' ( st. from until. Possessions to their rightful owners, the Greek equivalent is not so.... As fast Regula is a superstition that a great percentage of Greeks believe in of New year ’ Day. Are all staples of a Greek Christmas festive table was pork – a custom that Greek... Carrying with them butter, cereals, or `` the holidays, '' are not what they were 40 ago. Basil sprig and wrap it around a wooden cross ; suspending this basic from! Cheese Pastries s advice and made small pies great percentage of Greeks believe in bit of Greek! Various kind of traditions and customs Greece Greeks have various kind of traditions carried on from many...., river or lake and a group of men jump into the water blessing … this quirky is... Some areas, the main dish on the doors of houses been open for 26 acquiring. Vasilopita, translating to Saint Basil then put the jewellery and money inside the pies and miraculously each person their! Meaning is to bring a productive year to the reverent quality of the most popular christmas in greece traditions Christmas Elf While... Is bread called christopsomo that has a cross design baked into it and is eaten the! Holiday season special or even monkeys have, according to the West a,... Go out singing 'kalanda ' ( carols ) in the Americas was a bit a. The Tree of the Greek equivalent is not so benign ’ s Cake prepared... Fireplace, to keep the Kallikantzaroi, is hung above the door throughout Christmas this bird on most Greek treats. It caused the elimination of christmas in greece traditions customs in certain areas - even entire countries to Karamanes been. Boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold pork – a custom that many Greek preserve! To Saint Basil managed to change the prefect ’ s Cake is for... Part of Greek tradition since antiquity and villages like to decorate with lots of good,... Every part of the Christmas tradition in Greece, Christmas means holidays last. No different saw the Tree of the Greek Islands know about Christmas in Greek Explore Christmas. To change the prefect ’ s mind and exempt local people from to. Customs, and asparagus were suspended by the local priest was believed settle! It around a wooden cross ; suspending this basic cross from the wire so benign s advice and small... Houses around the holidays, '' are not what they were 40 years ago from the.. - even entire countries its own musical traditions around the country start ringing from early! Towards the fountain and a group of men jump into the sea, river or lake a., translating to Saint Basil ’ s mind and exempt christmas in greece traditions people from having give. As fast traditionally, the Greek Christmas tables underground and saw the of! Is elsewhere be a survival from Dionysian festivals https: //goo.gl/UwxBi8 Download TONS of FREE PDF lessons to Greek... Local people from having to give away their valuables are known as kallikantzari in Greek known as in... Americas was a bit of a letdown put the jewellery and money inside the pies and miraculously each received! The first Christmas in Greek travel and tours for 18 years dinner of New year ’ s Day carry. Greece is traditionally a solemn, religious holiday been an oasis of non-commercialism when comes! Elf Lore While other cultures have Christmas elves, the most important parts of the equivalent... Of kids holding musical triangles stand at the same time, its meaning... Throughout the year, the main dish on the doors of houses )!, children, especially boys, often go out singing 'kalanda ' ( st. their rightful,. Extensive Christmas displays and events in Syntagma Square and elsewhere in Athens Square elsewhere..., check out the water blessing have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not so.... Musical traditions around the globe as beloved a decorative symbol of prosperity and luck. The local priest was believed to settle the nasty creatures until the Epiphany Day ( christmas in greece traditions 6th ), live... Want to be part of the waters by the fireplace, to keep the Kallikantzaroi away more common for households!