Christmas traditions in Greece

Upravené: sobota, 22. október 2011

Christmas is one of the three holidays celebrated during that particular time of year.  The others are New Years Day, January 1 and the Feast of Lights, on January 6.   This makes the festivities carry on for a total of two weeks, when Greek school children are off from school and when families are reunited all over Greece. Most of the festivities during these three important holidays are celebrated around the dinner table.flamecandle1.jpg

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Most Greeks leave the main cities during these holidays to meet up with their loved ones in their home towns or villages.  The village on holidays becomes the central point of all festivities and people are there reunited with their relatives and childhood friends. Meals are usually quite elaborate, complete with some roasted meat (pork, fowl or beef) and several types of salads and side dishes.  Stuffed grape leaves are a favorite sidedish, along with spanakopita (spinach pie) and tyropita (cheese pie). 


The Greek holiday table is never complete without the traditional sweets. Melomakarona, or honey-nut cookies are a basic Christmas sweet as well as kourambiethes (sugar-dusted butter-nut cookies).  Sweets vary from village to village, depending upon the natural ingredients available in each area. New Year’s Day calls for the cutting of the traditional sweet bread, or Vasilopita, where the recipient of the coin hidden inside the bread is said to be very lucky  that year.

 According to the Greek Orthodox calendar, Greeks celebrate the feast days in which the saint with their name is honored.  Therefore, people who are named Emmanuel, or Emmanouela celebrate their “name day” on Christmas day, when Christ (also called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”) was born.  

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People who are called Vasilios, or Vasiliki celebrate their name day on January 1st, the feast day of St.Vasilios.  John and Joanna celebrate on January 6, the feast day of St. Johnthe Baptist.  St. Vasilios is portrayed as the giver of gifts to poor children, commonly known in the western world as Santa Clause or Father Christmas.  For this reason, Greeks usually exchange gifts on New Year’s Day, the feast day of St. Vasilios, but this is not the rule.