Christmas in Greece
During Advent, the Greeks will hang little wooden crosses with sprigs of basil from wires over shallow bowls of water in their homes. Keeping the water and basil fresh, they will sprinkle the “holy water” through the house at least once a day to protect their homes from Killantzaroi (the evil spirits). Between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6th), the Greeks will also keep their chimney fires burning, as legend says the Killantzaroi may enter through the chimneys to put out fires, play jokes, and sour the milk, leaving bad luck for the family.
On Christmas Eve, Greek children, especially the boys, may go around the streets singing kalanda (carols). They will carry model boats decorated with gold painted nuts, and play drums and triangles as they sing. If they sing well, listeners may reward them with gifts of money, nuts, sweets or dried figs.
Ships are a traditional decoration at Christmas as or more important than the more modern Christmas tree. The city of Thessaloniki draws many tourists each Christmas with their giant lighted tree and ship display.
The Christmas Meal in Greece
On Christmas Eve, the orthodox Greeks will fast, breaking their fast with the Christmas meal after the midnight mass.
The main Christmas meal is traditionally Lamb or pork, roasted in an oven or over an open spit. It will be served at a table traditionally decorated with christopsomo (Christ bread), a round loaf of sweet bread whose crust is decorated with symbols of the family business. The dinner may be served with a spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables.
Other favorite Christmas and new year Greek foods are 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), and Theeples (a kind of fried pastry).
Presents in Greece are normally distributed on January 1st, St. Basil's Day.
Have you been to Greece for the holidays? What else can you tell us about their holiday traditions?
- Baklava recipe
- Greece map and flag coloring page
- Greek letters printable
- How to make a model Greek ship
- How to draw an ancient Greek Warship – video
- Who was St. Basil?
Join our mailing list to get a new post about Christmas Around the World each day in October! Or click the link below to see the other posts in the series.