Christmas is one of the main holidays in Greece, and it is truly a magical time. Its rich history and cultural heritage are reflected in its many holiday tradition! You don’t need to live in Greece to enjoy any of these traditions. You can incorporate them into your holiday traditions no matter where you live! Here are some of the top Greek Christmas traditions that you can enjoy:
It is not unusual for countries along the Mediterranean to decorate their boats for Christmas and Greece is no exception. This tradition is particularly popular along the coastal villages and on the Greek islands. While the Christmas tree was once a foreign custom for Grecians, the tradition now incorporates both the decorating of the trees and the boats. Tress and boats alike are lit up all over town squares and other gathering spots.
Like many countries of European descent, the signing of the Christmas carols is a time-honored tradition. The singing generally begins on the days leading up to Christmas, culminating on Christmas Eve. Known as the Kalanta, kids gather in groups and go door to door singing songs for neighbors and friends.
While the carols vary between regions, the overriding theme is one of one joy and good cheer. As they sing the lyrics, the children play miniature drums and metal triangles. For a job well done, the children are usually given small tokens of appreciation, such as coins and candy.
It is no surprise to learn that sweets are a significant part of the Greek Christmas tradition. There is no shortage of amazing cookies and desserts that you will enjoy when celebrating the holidays in Greece. The cookies served on Christmas have deep roots in ancient Greece, stretching back to the Byzantine and Ottoman times. Popular treats include melomakarona, almond kourabiedes, and diples. Finish the holiday season off with the classic St. Basil’s Cake, usually served on New Year’s Eve.
This fun little tradition involves the legend of mischievous hobgoblins that allegedly play pranks and tease people during the time period stretching from Christmas Day until Epiphany Day. The story says that the hobgoblins live underground for the majority of the year, sawing the tree of the year. They only come up to Earth during these dedicated days, returning back underground after the village priest travels to the houses to sprinkle holy water so that the little monsters leave.
Going back to the days of ancient Greece, pomegranates have been a symbol of youth, good luck, and fertility. It is custom for the head of the household to stand outside the front door of their home on New Year’s Day and throw the piece of whole fruit on the ground, hitting it hard enough that it cracks open. The seeds spreading everywhere are said to bring good fortune to all of the members of the family.
All of these Greek Christmas traditions are absolutely worth enjoying. They are an integral part of Christmas celebrations throughout Greece.