When we talk about December, we think of winter. And also in Greece, winter “really” means winter!
December is the most festive month of the year in Greece! Apart from Christmas we also have many other religious feasts and important name days. In Greece, name days are more important than birthdays, so have a look if you have any Greek friends with the following name!
December 4: Barbara ‘s name day (protector of the army)
December 5: Savas’ name day (protector of the sick)
December 6: Nick, Nikki, Nicoleta, Nicholas’ name day (this day is very important to the Greeks, as St. Nicholas is the protector of sailors. Attention! Saint Nicholas does not bring gifts; children in Greece will have to wait till New Year’s Eve. Santa Claus or “Agios Vassilis” is honored on the 1rst of January!).
December 9: Anna’s nameday. This day is also supposed to be a cold day. Listen here to the Greek song: “ah annoula tou xionia” Αχ Αννούλα του χιονιά – Αντώνης Καλογιάννης
December 12: Spyros and Spyridoula’s nameday
December 15: Lefteris and Eleftheria’s name day.
December 25: Christos, Christina, Chrysa, Chrysoyla’s name day.
December 27: Stephanos, Stephania’s name day.
Do not forget to call your friends with those names and tell them “Chronia Polla”! Χρόνια Πολλά! They will be honoured with your call and will definitely treat you a sweet!
As in many countries, Greek people celebrate Christmas. The family gathers & eats together. During the days before Christmas and on the day itself, people wish each other “Kala Xristougenna” and “Kales Giortes”. Of course there are also several traditions connected to the Christmas period.
In Greece children sing the Christmas carols accompanied by their small metal triangles. Early in the morning on 24/12 the children go from door to door, asking “ na ta poume” – Can we sing it?-“. They sing the carol and will receive a small gift (usually some coins and chocolates or sweets!). Once they have finished their song, children wish “Merry Christmas” and the adults answer “and next year again!”. This basically means that they wish to celebrate Christmas also next year with health and happiness.
If you want to hear a Greek Christmas song and learn the lyrics, click here and learn your first Christmas song: Trigona Kalanta.
The decoration of the Christmas tree was not a Greek habit. It is said that the first Christmas tree in Greece was decorated by the Bavarian king Otto in 1833. Today, most Greeks decorate Christmas trees, but according to the tradition, Greeks were also decorating a boat, mainly on the islands. The boat symbolizes the maritime identity of the country. Greeks, a seafaring nation, of course combined the celebration of Christmas with the sea.And the last decade, you also see more and more decorated boats in Athens and other towns on the mainland. To learn more about this tradition, click here.
Just like Christmas, New Year is a family event in Greece. In the morning of December 31st, children sing again from door to door, but this time with a typical New Year song. People get together for dinner on New Year eve & wish each other ‘Kali Xronia’ at midnight. And many will continue to party the whole night in the various clubs and music venues all over the country.On the 1st of January, people will gather and cut the Vasilopita (see below).
The Celebration of Epiphany (of Lights)
On January 5th the children are singing once more carols. On the 6th January the Greek people celebrate “Phota” or “Theofania” or “Epiphania”, which stands for the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. The morning of the 6th , the priest throws the cross in the water. In many areas the cross is thrown in the sea, rivers or lakes. In mountainous areas or in Athens, it can be also in a fountain. Young men jump in the water to catch it. The first to catch it, will have lot of luck. To read more about this celebration, click here.
If you have ever been in Greece during this season, you must have noticed all the cookies and pies in the shops. Winter is a season with plenty of delicious Greek sweets. Here some examples.
Christmas period: Melomakarona
The melomakarono (Greek: μελομακάρονο plural: μελομακάρονα, melomakarona) is an egg-shaped Greek dessert made mainly from flour,olive oil, and honey. It is a traditional sweet prepared primarily during the Christmas holiday season.
Christmas period: Kourabiedes
Together with Melomakarona, these are traditional cookies that are made during the Christmas period in Greece. Kourabiedes are almond butter biscuits, powdered with lots of icing sugar.
As in every season, there are natural phenomena. During the Greek winter, every year there are some very warm days with a lot of sunshine. They are called the Alkionides Days. Unfortunately we never know on which days exactly the Alionides day will be, but in Mythology this phenomena is explained!
The Myth of Halcyon: Halcyon (Alcyone in Greek) was the daughter of Aeolus, the ruler of the winds. Halcyon was married to the mortal king Ceyx of Tachis. Ceyx drowned in a huge storm despite the warnings of Halcyon. Poseidon (the sea god) brought his body to his wife’s arms. Halcyon was desperate and threw herself into the dark waves. Amazed by her love and devotion, the gods decided to save her and to transform her into a seabird. They also turned Ceyx into another kingfisher so the two could live and be together. Halcyon would lay her eggs only in winter. Having her nest near the shore, close by the spot where she found the body of Ceyx, the stormy waves kept sweeping away her eggs. Therefor Zeus decided to give her some days of good and calm weather in the middle of winter: so these are the Halcyon days.
Would you like to experience winter in Athens, discover the city, try the typical food, learn more about the traditions and celebrate New Year? This is all possible during an 1-week intensive course, while learning Greek! Click here for more info.
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