Christmas Around the World: Greece

More stories from Sammie May

March 30, 2015
Christmas decorations in Greece

Christmas decorations in Greece

Everyone knows the traditions of celebrating Christmas in their own home, but what about the traditions in other countries? Christmas in Greece ranks 2nd in important holidays–it’s followed behind Easter.  On Christmas Eve, village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing Kalanda, the equivalent of carols. Often the songs are accompanied by small metal triangles and little clay drums.  As a reward for speeding cheer they get little treats or dried fruit. After 40 days of fasting, the Christmas feast is looked forward to. Almost on every table are loaves of christopsomo (“Christ Bread”). This bread is made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and the crusts are engraved and decorated in some way that reflects the family’s profession. Christmas trees are not a tradition in Greece but throughout the years they have became more popular. Instead of a tree being a main symbol for the holiday, almost every home the main symbol of the season is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. The cross is dipped in holy water and then sprinkled around each room of their house. This tradition is done once a day to keep the  Killantzaroi (goblins or bad spirits) away. The Killantzaroi are believed to do things like extinguish fires, ride astride people’s backs, braid horses’ tails, and sour the milk. Presents are not revived on December 25th. On St. Basil’s Day, which is on January 1st, is when the presents are exchanged and open. Also on January 1st the “renewal of waters”( a ritual in which all water jugs in the house are emptied and refilled with new St. Basil’s Water). The ceremony is often accompanied by offerings to the naiads (spirits of springs and fountains). Christmas is different in many countries, Greece is just one example of the many traditions that are celebrated during this holiday.