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Greek Christmas Traditions

If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, then Greece this year is not your place! On the other hand, if you like sunny weather, Greece is the ideal place to visit. Spending Christmas in Greece is actually fun. It may be a little bit different but still fun. You still get all the Christmas lights, windows, malls and parks that you get in every European city. But Greek Christmas traditions really make the difference!

Greeks just like to rest of the Christian world, decorate their Christmas tree. However, Greece is a navy country, so in many places, people like to decorate model boats. So don’t be surprised if you see a decorated boat on squares.

Before Christmas, Greeks wish to each other “Kala Christougenna” which means Merry Christmas. On Christmas, they wish “Xronia Polla”. This is like saying I wish you live for many years. Right after Christmas, they wish “Kali Xronia” which means have a nice year!

Don’t forget, Greeks celebrate their name days! So on the 25th, say “Xronia Polla” to Chris, Christina, Christopher, and Chryssa. On the 26th to Manolis. On the 27th to Stefanos. On the 1st of January to Bill, Vassili, and Vassiliki and on the 7th of January to John, Gianni, and Gianna. These are just the most important names!

So, on the morning of 24th of December, one day before Christmas, kids, especially boys, go out singing Christmas carols. Greeks call these carols kalanda. What they really do is to knock doorbells really early in the morning to sing kalanda and play triangles as they play. Christmas carols are all about Christ birth. Greeks considered it a blessing to have kids singing carols in their house so they give money to the kids to thank them.

If you want to go to Church to celebrate Christmas, be prepared. You would need to wake up really early in the morning! Greeks just like all of us, like to eat on Christmas day with their family and friends. Get ready for a lot of good food. Some of their traditional Christmas dishes are chicken lemon soup, pork and of course turkey. In the past, Greeks used to eat more pork during Christmas than any other meat.  They usually serve their meat with baked potatoes, cheese pie, and various salads. One of the most popular Greek Christmas traditions is to cut and serve Christopsomo which is Christ’s Bread. This Christmas bread is made on Christmas Eve ready to be eaten on Christmas Day.

Greeks have delicious Christmas desserts. Melomakarona, kourambiethes, diples… You definitely need to try them. Or make them!

Between Christmas to Epiphany, Greeks believe that kallikantzaroi (bad spirits) come from the middle of the earth and get into people’s house through the chimney! Even though people believe that kallikantzaroi do things like putting out fires and making milk go off, their only objective is to cut the tree of life! And they only have 12 days to do that!

Kids do the exactly same thing on the morning of the 31st of December. Only this time, they sing the New Year’s Carols which are dedicated to Saint Basil. Don’t forget, Greeks Santa Claus is Saint Basil. To honor him, they follow one of the coolest Greek Christmas Traditions. They make a Vasilopita! This is the Greeks’ New Year’s cake. So, inside each Vasilopita there is a coin. The person who gets the coin is supposed to be lucky all year long! Greek cut this cake on the first day of the New Year.

1st January, New Year’s Day, is St Vasilis’s Day who is also known as St Basil the Great. Again, most Greeks like to go to church and get blessings for the New Year. Santa Claus in Greece usually “visits” kids on the New Year’s Eve. Parents on the other hand usually give their gifts on Christmas Eve.

If you think you are over with the carols, you are wrong. Kids on the 5th of January sing the Epiphany carols. Epiphany is celebrated on the 6th of January. This day, Greek Orthodox celebrates Jesus’s baptism when he was a man. They also call it ‘The Blessing of the Waters’.  Priests bless the waters and throw a cross into the cold waters (lakes, river and the sea). Many young men dive into the cold water and try to be first to get the cross. The person who gets the cross first is meant to have good luck during the coming year.

People also like to go to Church to get the holy water. When they get it, they go to their homes and sprinkle it in each room. This keeps ‘kallikantzaroi’ away and sends them back to the middle of the earth until next Christmas!

If you want to get most of the Greek Christmas traditions, it will be even better if you have friends or relatives to spend time with during these holy days!

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