A traditional Christmas in Greece
Christmas in coming again this year, with good tidings and hopes for peace and good will, even despite the international turmoil of a month ago. We already have an image of what is to be expected aesthetically and traditionally speaking: decorated fir trees, the Nativity scene with Baby Jesus in the manger, carols, Santa Claus and lots of gifts. But what do you think is specific of a traditional Christmas in Greece?
There are many similarities between all Christian cultures, but Catholic or Protestant ones differ from the Orthodox a little bit and Greece is mostly Orthodox. The mass is a little different, the carols as well and also the traditions have a personal allure.
On Christmas Day, boys roam the streets playing drums and triangles and singing carols (“kalanda”). In Greece St. Nicholas is regarded as the Patron Saint of sailors. And since Greece has a long history of navigation, he is very important. Apart from assimilating the Saint with the mythical character of Santa Claus, the Greeks also honor his name by decorating little boats. Most people have this small artifact at home, along with the Christmas tree.
On Christmas Eve, the families leave a burning fire to scare away the evil goblins called Killantzaroi. Although these Greek mythical creatures are more mischievous than they are dangerous. They put out the fires and sour the milk or annoy the people and braid the tails of horses… for some unknown reason. Anyway, they bring their own patch of color to the season.
Presents are offered on St. Basil’s Day, January 1st instead of Christmas and the special foods served for the season are Christopsomo (the bread of Christ), Baklava pastry and meat.
When in Greece, don’t forget to rent a car in Thessaloniki or get a Thessaloniki airport transfer.
Meanwhile, all we have left to say is, ‘Kala Christougenna!’ (Greek for, ‘Merry Christmas!’)