While in Greece you won't find a fancy display of decorations, like you would find in western countries. Recently Athens arranged for events to be held to celebrate the flamboyant festival of Christmas. In Greece, Christmas means holidays that last for upto twelve days. There are distinct customs associated with the twelfth day. According to Greek mythology, it was found that Christ's birth was celebrated on the same day as that of the ancient and invincible Sun God, Mithra. With the coming of new Gods the popularity of the Sun God reduced and the love for Christ reached a greater number of people. A forty day fast is observed by people in Greece mainly for religious reasons and also by some for health reasons. As the countdown for the festival begins, houses are cleaned and cookies are made. Honey cookies are solely made for Christmas while sugar candies are served on New Year's Day. Read on.
Greek Christmas Customs
St. Nicholas And The Legend
When one thinks of Christmas in Greece, one will think of the period of St. Nicholas who was regarded as the 'patron saint of sailors'. It is so because it was believed that he rescued men drowning in the sea and as a matter of fact had to fight heavy storms and tides to do so. Today, one can find a St. Nicholas icon in ships travelling across the port of Greece.
Of Mayors And Christmas Trees
Christmas in Greece is no more neglected, as people cherish the celebration of the festival. One can find lights and Christmas trees decorated in major cities and towns. Athens has revived the spirit of Christmas and it is celebrated with anticipation. The bold Mayor, Mayor Dimitris Avramopouloshas added color to the festival with the erection of the largest Christmas tree in Europe.
A Feast For The Senses
The center most attraction of Christmas is an extravagant feast that is enjoyed by both children as well as elders. A feast after observing a forty day fast makes it even more special. The loaves of Christ bread known as Christopsomo are found on the tables engraved in a manner that indicates the family's occupation. The main course is roast lamb and pork made in an oven or open pit fire places.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree was not a common sight in Greek homes during the month of December. However, now, it has gained popularity and is expected to stay popular for the years to come. When the holiday season begins, it is quite common to find a twig of basil that is enveloped around a wooden cross hanging from the rim of a shallow bowl. A family member or usually the mother of the house fills water in the bowl to keep the basil alive and dips the cross and basil in holy water which she sprinkles every day in each of the rooms. This is a belief that is followed to drive evil spirits away.
Gifts are exchanged only on the first day of January. This day is marked as St. Basil's Day when all glasses carrying water in the house are refilled with 'St. Basil's Water'. This practice is performed with great precision and is also accompanied with an offering to 'naiads', the spirit of the springs and fountains.
Children And Carols
When compared to the Western culture, there are certain similarities that are noticed. Children who live in villages travel from house to house singing kalanda, which is as good as singing carols. They offer good wishes to the respective family and have tinkling sounds of metal triangles and clay drums to accompany their songs. People usually give them sweets, dried figs or coins in return for songs sun
Read about Christmas and its traditions in Greece and Greek Christmas customs