Our favourite season is here 🙌 and while we are all feeling the holiday spirit, we thought it would be nice to share with you some popular Christmas traditions in Greece that go back several years..
Christmas Boats and Trees ⛵
Although Christmas trees are extremely popular around the world, people in Greece decorate both Christmas trees and boats! Throughout the country’s history, Greek wives and children would decorate wooden boats to welcome their husbands and sons back from the sea, safe from harm. The tradition still stands to this day.
The day before Christmas, New Years and The Epiphany, kids in Greece stroll from home to home in their neighbourhoods to sing Greek Christmas carols, “kalanda.” while playing triangles, flutes or even drums. After wishing their neighbours happy holidays, the children are usually rewarded with sweets, dried fruits and some money.
Greek tradition has it that little poor mannered kallikantzaroi, hobgoblins, would rise from underground to cause damage and annoy people during the 12 days of Christmas. For the rest of the year they live at the centre of the Earth where they work to cut down The Tree Of Life that holds up the World.They come from the middle of earth and get into people’s houses through the chimney! Having a fire burning through the twelve days of Christmas is also meant to keep the kallikantzaroi away. To make them disappear, priests would visit people’s homes on the day of the Epiphany, January 6, and bless them with holy water.
Christmas Sweets 😋
Greek people can’t wait for the holy season and for the Christmas treats’ appearance. It is really hard to find a Greek house at Christmas time which isn’t filled with a variety of traditional Christmas sweets. The common sweets are “snowy” kourabiethes, Christmas butter cookies, filled with almonds and covered with powdered sugar.The all time favourite “melomakarona”, soaked in honey syrup , with a tang of cinnamon, orange and other spices. Also,there are diples, thin rolls of dough, fried and sprinkled with chopped nuts and honey.
Customs on New Year’s 🍰
On New Year’s Day, the adults of the family, in many places in Greece, give money and gifts to the children wishing them a happy new year, a tradition called “Bounamathes”. After midnight and when the new year has finally arrived every Greek family cuts their Vasilopita, a New Year’s cake with a florin hidden. The first slice is in the name of Jesus Christ, the second for The Virgin Mary, the third for Saint Vassilis, the fourth for the house and then, for each member of the family, starting with the oldest. Whoever finds the coin in their piece has good fortune for the rest of the year
The Pomegranate is considered an ancient symbol of prosperity and good luck by the Greeks and people hung one above the door throughout Christmas. At midnight, on New Year’s Eve, the lights are turned out for the countdown before the year changes and afterward, families smash the pomegranate to the floor, or at the door of the house and as it smashes, the seeds are symbolising the happiness and prosperity for the coming year, so the more seeds the better!
Another tradition on New Year’s is the “Pothariko”, where children of a family must be the first person to enter a house that year and necessarily only with their right foot. In Greece it is believed that this will bring luck to the household the whole year.
Traditions make us feel that we belong and they strengthen the bonds between us and our loved ones. There is so much beauty in getting familiar with the values and culture among different countries and ethnicities.
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