How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?

This is a guest post from Andrea Michael of Olive Translations.

If there’s one thing the Greeks know how to do it’s celebrate an event in style and Christmas is no exception.

The festivities begin before Christmas on 6th December (St Nicolas’ Day ) when children roam the streets with drums and triangles singing carols or ‘kalanda’ as they’re called in Greek. These carols have been handed down from generation to generation from Byzantine times.

Going from door to door, it’s a nice way to sing carols and children earn a few Euros (which in this economic climate is no bad thing!)

Greece being a Christian country, tradition and religion dictate many of the events that take place and Christmas is no exception. There is no doubt that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, a bread called ‘Christopsomo’, literally ‘Christ Bread’ is homemade and a sign of the cross is imprinted before it goes in the oven. On Christmas Day, the bread is sliced and each piece is given to a family member.

Christmas Day itself is usually spent in church in the morning then home for lunch with the family. Whilst turkey can be bought at supermarkets due to the influx of tourists, most families will have a leg of lamb or pork roasting on a barbeque spit cooking for hours. This is usually served with a traditional ‘spanakopita’ or spinach-cheese pie and lots of vegetables and rice.

For dessert there are two varieties of cakes ‘melomakarouna’ and ‘kourapiedes’ which are normally baked in large quantities. ‘Melomakarouna’  are semolina, cinnamon biscuits covered in honey, and ‘kourapiedes’ are rosewater and butter cookies coated with powdered sugar that are normally served on New Year’s but are often eaten earlier as they are too good to resist!

All this good food makes for partying and it’s not uncommon for music to be blaring all night long whilst everybody dances around their houses and into the street with neighbours joining in just for fun.

Gifts are not actually exchanged on Christmas Day, but are given on 1st January. Things then wind down but not before the Epiphany on 6th January. This is the date the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Jesus’ baptism when he was a man.

The Epiphany is also known as ‘The Blessing of the Waters’. All over Greece, priests throw a cross which he has blessed into the sea ( or lake or river) and the male members of the family will dive into the freezing waters to be the first to get the cross. Whoever comes out first holding the cross is said to have good luck in the coming year.

If you happen to be in Greece and want to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ it’s ‘Kala Christouyenna!’.

Related posts: Tuesday 13th   How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany?    How do they celebrate Christmas in France? How do they celebrate Christmas in Italy? How do they celebrate Christmas in Russia?

Many thanks again to Andrea for this guest post.  Olive Translations, based in Birmingham, is a translation company with a difference. Certified to the highest European Translation Standard, EN 15038 and with an ISO 9001:2008 Certified Quality Management System in place, when we say Quality; we mean it. Let us be your Partner for the provision of serious, quality translations and we can work together to tailor make a service and price that’s right for you. For a quote please email: info@olivetranslations.com

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4 Responses to How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?

  1. MissDotty says:

    Thanks so much for this, it was a really interesting insight!

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