Christmas in Greece
Christmas in Greece is a very festive, significant holiday celebrated with many different traditions. ‘Christougena’, meaning Christmas in Greek, begins on Christmas Eve, where Saint Vasilis, or Santa Clause, delivers small presents. Festivities begin around December 6th, or St. Nicholas Day, where children wander the streets and sing Christmas carols known as ‘kolanda’. They carry drums and triangles and sometimes boats decorated with nuts and painted gold, a very old Grecian custom. There are twelve days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas and last until Jan 6th, also known as the Feast of Epiphany.
Though Christmas trees are not a big tradition in Greece, instead many people keep a shallow wooden bowl with a sprig of basil wrapped on a wooden cross. This is used to sprinkle water throughout the house to keep bad spirits, or ‘Killantzaroi’ away.
Turkey is popular for lunch, while also favorable is a leg of lamb or pork roasting either in the oven or on an open spit for hours. This delicious meal is served with a side of ‘spanikopita’ (spinach cheese pie) and an abundance of veggies and rice. Also offered are loaves of ‘christopsomo’ (Christ bread), a round, sweet loaf decorated with the occupation of its family members. For example, if you are a fisherman there would be a fish, etc. And let’s not forget about desert! There is (among others) ‘melomakarouna’, which are semolina, cinnamon biscuits dripped in honey, and ‘kourapiedes’, or rosewater and butter cookies covered with powdered sugar.
Music blares on the street while friends and neighbors celebrate in their homes and gather to join in the fun holiday spirit. If you ever find yourself in Greece and want to wish someone in Greek a Merry Christmas, greet them with a ‘Kala Christouyenna!’. Celebrate this Christmas by giving a Kantyli gift.