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12-12-2018 05:26 PM
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On Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing 'kalanda' (carols) in the streets. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes they will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. Carrying a boat is a very old custom in the Greek Islands.
If the children sing well, they might be given money, as well things to eat like nuts, sweets and dried figs.
Christmas Trees are popular in Greece. But an older and more traditional decoration is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire suspended across the rim. A sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross and hangs from the wire. Some water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day someone, usually the mother of the family, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house.
This is believed to keep the 'kallikantzaroi' Καλλικάντζαρος (bad spirits) away. The kallikantzaroi are meant to appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to Epiphany (January 6th). They are supposed to come from the middle of the earth and get into people's house through the chimney! The kallikantzaroi do things like putting out fires and making milk go off. Having a fire burning through the twelve days of Christmas is also meant to keep the kallikantzaroi away (burning old shoes is meant to be a very good way of scaring off the kallikantzaroi).
Every December, in Aristotelous Square in the city of Thessaloniki (which is the second biggest city Greece) a huge Christmas Tree and three masted sailing ship are put up. It's a popular tourist attraction.
Going to a Midnight Mass Service is very important for most Greeks. After the service people can go home and end their Advent fast.
The main Christmas meal is often lamb or pork, roasted in an oven or over an open spit. It's often served with a spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables. Other Christmas and new year foods include 'Baklava' (a sweet pastry made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey), Kataifi (a pastry made from a special form of shredded filo dough and flavored with nuts and cinnamon), Theeples (a kind of fried pastry). The pastries are either eaten for breakfast or as starters. Another popular Christmas dessert are melomakarono, egg or oblong shaped biscuit/cakes made from flour, olive oil, and honey and rolled in chopped walnuts.
A traditional table decoration are loaves of 'Christopsomo' (Christ's Bread or Christmas bread). It's a round sweet bread which is flavored with cinnamon, orange and cloves. The top is decorated with a cross. The bread is made on Christmas Eve ready to be eaten on Christmas Day.
In Greek Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Kala Christougenna'.
People in Greece also celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January. In the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus's baptism when he was a man. It's also known as 'The Blessing of the Waters'. There are many events throughout the country where young men dive into really cold lakes, rivers and the sea to try to be first to get a cross which has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. Whoever gets the cross first is meant to have good luck during the coming year. Epiphany festivals also include blessings of boats & ships, music, dancing and lots of food.
So, Kala Christougenna QVC!
12-12-2018 05:58 PM
@Dinaki You have lovely customs, a gorgeous country, delicious food and a language which is beautiful when spoken . . . but I've never been able to master it! Have two families living across the street from me (related to each other) and thoroughly enjoy their traditions, celebrations and religion.
Many, many years ago my late husband and I vacationed in Greece after my mom had visited and suggested we go. We were in awe of the architecture and the ruins. The history is staggering when one realizes BC many of those landmarks are!
Thanks for sharing some of the celebrations of this season.
12-12-2018 07:01 PM
I love Greece and it's people. They are so kind and friendly. My DH and I spent a month there visiting the islands and Athens and the surrounding areas.
The food, the music, the jewelry, the pottery....I love it all. A highlight of my trip was when on the island of Paros, I heard a small group of Greek children singing happy birthday in English in a courtyard. They must have been having a party. It was delightful hearing their sweet voices.
i would love to be there around Christmas time. Thanks for sharing the traditions.
@Dinaki I am confused though about Christmas Day. Aren't most Greeks Orthodox? My DH is not Greek, but he Orthodox and celebrates Christmas on January 7th.
Our Greek friends celebrate in January also.
12-12-2018 11:31 PM
Thank you for so beautifully sharing the Christmas traditions of the Greek people with us! I ‘grew up Greek’ in a wonderful neighborhood in Chicago. A Greek family moved in next door before my third birthday. Our families grew so close... we became like one family, though we had different ethnic and religious backgrounds. What we shared was a LOT of love... and deep respect and devotion...and that has grown over the years. I have no siblings of my own... they ARE my sisters and brother. Today I was at the bedside of my beloved older sister for yet another chemo treatment ... as I have been with her at every doctor appt. and medical treatment for the last 7 years... Monday my brother and SIL took me to my first ever pro basketball game.... their children are like my own.... I am so deeply blessed to have them and their whole wonderful extended family as my own family. The Greek culture, traditions and people are beautiful. I feel fortunate to have ‘grown up Greek’!
12-12-2018 11:53 PM - edited 12-12-2018 11:54 PM
@Dinaki, hello! When I was a sophomore in college in spring 1975, our class took an 8 day tour of Greece (I spent the semester abroad in Rome). The trip was wonderful except for me drinking acqua non potabile on the boat from Brindisi to Corfu. Greece was beautiful and I was fortunate enough to visit again during my career, to Athens and Thessaloniki. The food is beyond wonderful (how I prefer to eat), people were friendly and I would go back if the opportunity presented itself. Thank you for the recipe! So far I’ve been limited to the Progresso version!
12-13-2018 10:53 PM
@Dinaki I just found a tee shirt with lots of felines that I bought in Greece. Across the front it says "All the cats of Greece." Yes, we've always had a cat! We also purchased some original artwork which hangs in the living room.
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