Greece is one of the top European tourist destinations and the cradle of Western civilization, the birthplace of major mathematical principles and the land of the Olympic games. People celebrate Christmas in Greece on the 25th of December and it is a time for friends and families to come together and celebrate the day. It is one of the most popular events in the country.
Let’s learn more about the Greek Christmas traditions!
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Christmas customs and traditions in Greece
The Greeks have unique Christmas customs and traditions. The holiday traditions in Greece have been passed through different generations. That is the reason people are celebrating the Christmas holiday in high spirits.
Some of the most popular Christmas traditions in Greece are:
- the Christmas treats
- the pomegranate
- Greek Christmas carols
- the traditions of St. Basil’s cake.
When Christmas comes around in Greece, many people usually gather alongside their friends and it is a perfect time for them to have fun. The Greeks value Christmas, family, and the traditions that are associated with the holiday.
Spending the Christmas in Greece is one way that you can have a memorable experience in Europe. Here, you can enjoy music concerts, Christmas markets, and amazing outdoor festivals.
Since we know Greece for its unique summer vacation experiences, you should know that the country is also an exceptional place for you to visit during your Christmas vacation.
When you visit Greece, you are going to get the Eastern European vibe and the influence of the Western Europe.
Visiting Greece soon? Make sure to prepare for your trip with additional resources:
- Dangerous Animals in Greece
- Hiking Trails in Corfu
- Best Places for Snorkeling in Santorini
- Hiking in Crete
- Snakes in Greece
The Greeks have continued to keep their traditions. Here are some of the most common Christmas traditions that you are going to find in the country.
This is a figure commonly known as Santa in Greece. The Christmas traditions in Greece are similar to those of the Orthodox Church. However, Agios Vasilis is not St. Nicholas, who gives away presents during the Christmas season.
Saint Basil of Caesarea is a contemporary figure of the Greek legends and there is a chance that he lived in the same century with St. Nicholas. In the Greek tradition, St. Vasilis usually brings presents to the children during the New Year. That day is the St. Vasilis Day.
It is for this reason that many children across Greece will not get their presents on Christmas Day but they will rather receive presents from St. Vasilis on the New Year. While they usually open the presents on the New Year, many families across Greece, especially those in the urban areas, have shifted the date to the 25th of December.
Therefore, many children will get presents on Christmas Day while others will get them on New Year’s Day.
St. Basil is a Greek old man with a white beard and red cap and his day is usually celebrated on New Year. During this time, people exchange gifts and sing Greek carols.
Further reading: Christmas in Lithuania
Christmas carols in Greece
Christmas carols are common in Greece and the children will sing these songs around the country. These are folk songs and greetings that date back to the Byzantine era and people sing them each year on New Year’s Eve and on Epiphany.
Children sing carols in groups or as individuals and they usually visit public places, shops, and other places around the country. When you travel around Greece, you will encounter a traditional, triangular instrument that is often played alongside these carols.
Some of the other common instruments that are played include flute, guitar, accordion, and drum. Children will go from one home to another knocking on doors. The person who opens the door will allow the children to sing the carols and give them presents such as sweets, candies, and money as well.
It is good to note that this tradition has become more common around Greece.
Further reading: Christmas in Iceland
The Christmas period in Greece is usually a perfect time for friends and families to reunite and share the joy of Christmas. In many homesteads around the country, family members from different parts of the country come and join others for the Christmas celebration.
There are long hours of stuffing, baking, mixing, and preparation of dishes across the country. The cooking is usually followed by huge dinner tables where all family members and friends come together to eat.
It is a perfect place to celebrate, eat, and rejoice during the festive season. During the Christmas period, there are tickets sold around the country to make traveling easy for holiday goers around Greece.
Further reading: Christmas in Liechtenstein
Christmas food in Greece
There are numerous typical Greek dishes for Christmas including Christ bread or Christopsomo. This type of bread usually can never miss the Christmas period and you can find it in different parts of the country.
It is made with dough and at the center they decorate it with a cross on top as a symbol of prosperity. People usually eat it during Christmas dinner.
In Greece, kourambiedes and melomakarona are common as well. These are sweets and snacks that have gained an immense popularity around the country.
The holiday dinner in Greece will feature homemade hot pork tenderloin. That pork is often the first meat that is consumed when breaking fast for people who have been on the advent.
One other common dish is stuffed turkey, and it is a common tradition around the country. You will find other treats and drinks as well.
Further reading: Christmas in Austria
Christmas wood in Greece
During the festivities in Greece, the wood is usually burnt to warm the hearts of the people. Many people around the country usually look for the strongest piece of wood, such as an olive or pine tree, and this will be in the fireplace until the day of epiphany. People believe that the wood and the fireplace were to keep Christ warm in the manger.
Further reading: Christmas in Bosnia and Herzegovina
These are small boats decorated with lights. During your time in Greece, you can find these impeccable boats with lights in almost all parts of the country.
The tradition has been kept alive for many years and people usually do the decoration of these boats alongside other Christmas celebrations. You will find the famous tree in the center of the capital with the decorations.
The tradition of decorating the boat has been common in Greece for hundreds of years now and the Greek people still follow this tradition.
To Karavaki is a small boat that has a Christian symbolism because the people in the country usually decorate it and place it on the window as a sign of a good omen.
If you travel to Greece, then you will see this as a common Christmas tradition. Since many people in Greece are fishermen or sailors, then the oat decoration is essential because it allows people to wish for a good omen so that they can return safely from the sea.
This is a common Christmas tradition practiced in various parts of Greece. During this period, children play songs and move from one door to another. They play the Christmas songs during this time as well.
During this process, the children get all kinds of presents such as sweets, candies, and money. Many of them usually sing these songs as they wait for monetary gifts so that they can buy themselves Christmas presents.
It is a common tradition across the country to reward these kids heavily, and the tradition takes place on Christmas Day and on Christmas Eve.
This is one of the major legends that relates to Christmas, which is highly cherished in Greece.
The kallikantzaros is a magical, evil spirit often found in different countries around the Balkan region. The creature is humanlike, and it has thin and long limbs walking in a unique posture.
According to Greek legend, the creature is important in preventing the Earth from getting into the underworld. A large population of the people in Greece believe that the winter solstice is a new beginning.
The creatures usually fear that the world will collapse on them, so they sneak into our world and play tricks on people. This is a common belief, especially from Christmas Day through to Epiphany Day.
On Epiphany day people believe that kallikantzaros usually move and hide themselves in the underworld and will come back again in the next season.
How do the Greeks protect themselves from the Kallikantzaros?
One of the common Christmas traditions in Greece is to know the ways of protecting yourself from kallikantzaros. You should take time to avoid this creature because it is dangerous, and it brings bad luck.
Greeks believe these creatures are not as intelligent as many people might think. One of the ways that the local people usually protect themselves from the creature is by placing a colander on their doorsteps.
Epiphany Day in Greece
The Christmas period in Greece is not complete until the day of the Epiphany. Greeks celebrate this on the 6th of January. In Greece, people commemorate this day by celebrating the baptism of Christ. This is considered one of the most important holidays in the country.
The Orthodox Church in the country also celebrates God’s presence during the baptism of Christ. In different parts of the country, there is sanctification of the water across the land, and this is done by the lakes and rivers around the country.
Once the essential church service is over, the priest will walk together with hundreds of people at the edge of the water. Once the people are there, they will bless the water by placing a cross on it. Afterwards, the women and men will dive into the water to try to retrieve the cross.