Christmas and New Year Eve in Greece is celebrated in a particular but intense way in Greece. It’s worth spending a couple of days in Greece to discover this way closer to values we tend to lose : Religion, Family and Human warmth at table.
Christmas is celebrated in a different way in Greece. It is a deep Christian event with fasting, « metalavia » (to ask forgiveness from God) at church and mass celebrations from the early mornings from Christmas Eve on. At Christmas day, we say : « Hronia Polla ! » which means « Many (happy) years to come » to people called « Christos » and « Christina » like me !. We wish « Kala Christouyenna » which means « Good Jesus Christ Birth » . What wonderful whishes full of meanings !!
Christmas table : After a 40-day fasting, housewifes start following traditional Greek recipes. They bring food on tables as lemon soup, nice pieces of pork, the loaf of « christopsomo » or « Christ Bread ». Turkey is not traditional in Greece but Greeks adopted it in some way. Women prepared delicious sweets as « Melomararona » and « Kourabiedes » . I always appreciated this specific way of celebrating Jesus Coming.
Singing Kalanda : At Christmas Eve, children go from house to house singing the Kalanda (like xmas carols) with small metal triangles in hand and they give good wishes. In exchange, the children are rewarded with some Euro’ cents coins but in the past, they were given symbolic food as an egg or sweets. How warm and colorful are these whishes in every heart of the person who listen to them!! Every year, I wait impatiently for the kids to sing to me !
Christmas tree or boat : The Greeks adopted north occidental habits with decorated trees with lights but the tradition is to decorate boats and ships with lights for Christmas and some people still follow this tradition by decorating a copy of a sailboat and display it on a window sill or a table. I love to see them ’cause I am really fed up with trees !!
Make the Killantzari to disappear : Once a day, we dip Jesus cross and basil into some holy water and uses the basil to sprinkle water in each room of the house. By this way, we keep away the Killantzaroi which are like goblins appearing only during the 12 days period from Christmas to the Epiphany. These mischievous creatures are believed to slip into people’s house through the chimney. They do things like extinguish fires, ride astride people’s backs and so one. To further repel these undesirable sprites, the hearth is kept burning day and night throughout the twelve days. What lovely tradition full of imagination ! My daughter who is 14 years old still likes listenning to her grandmother stories about them…
Christmas gifts : Greeks adopted the idea of Santa Clauss at Christmas entering houses by the chimneys to give gifts to children but actually, gifts are only exchanged on St. Basil’s Day (January 1st) in memory of the original Vasil who was a priest in the orthodox church of Egypt and was the first to organize the church’s care for the poor. I like to think of this priest…. more than to impersonnel classic Santa Clauss !
Summary of the e-book (source Amazon.com) :
With a browsable design reminiscent of a long magazine article or an encyclopedia entry, this bright volume presents a detailed, informative text with lots of color photos. Around 98 percent of Greeks follow the Greek Orthodox religion, a state religion and a central force in daily life. In fact, spirituality is the focus of the Greek Christmas holiday, which begins with a long Lent period of fasting and is eventually followed by 12 days of merriment and mischief. Readers will be interested in the marked differences between the Greek Christmas and the traditional American celebrations. Like other volumes in the Christmas Around the World series, this ends with long practical sections on crafts, carols, and recipes, and a glossary. Hazel Rochman
Comments from Bill Egan (source Amazon.com):
Part of a series developed by World Book Inc. several decades ago for young people, these books have evolved into a rich storehouse of information for anyone of any age who enjoys learning the Christmas history, stories, native Christmas songs, Christmas crafts, and holiday recipes of many nations.This is different from most of the other books in this series because it places the focus on Orthodox celebrations for St. Nicholas Day, Christmas, New Year’s, the feast of St. Basil, and Epiphany in Greece. The book is richly illustrated with full-color photos. Two Greek carols have the original language, English translation, and musical notes — « Your Birth, O Christ » and « Christmas Kalanda. » There is also a section on Greek Christmas crafts.