Here below you will find information about some Christmas traditions in Greece. As a listening exercise you can click on the button above, where you will find the text in Greek while listening to teacher Konstantinos reading the text for you.
Greek Christmas Traditions
Christmas preparations begin in December. The key element is decorating: the streets, the squares, the houses, they are all full of Christmas lights and of course we follow the long-established tradition of decorating a Christmas tree. Apart from a tree, it is also possible to come across a decorated model boat; you may think there is something wrong about it but this is definitely not the case! Traditionally, in the past people in Greece used to decorate Christmas boats, especially on the islands. The Christmas tree tradition arrived later from Europe.
Christmas sweets and food
Christmas preparations, however, include more than Christmas trees, ornaments and lights; getting ready for the festive season is also about preparing lots of sweets! It is time to make or buy ‘μελομακάρονα’ (melomakárona), ‘κουραμπιέδες’ (kourambiéthes, ‘th’ pronounced as in the word ‘the’) and ‘δίπλες’ (thiples, ‘th’ pronounced as in the word ‘the’, stress on ‘i’)! If you are in Greece, you will definitely see these wonderful sweets in the pastry shops and bakeries! Make sure you taste them!
The main Christmas meal also requires special preparation. Stuffed roast turkey is of course the most popular choice, however, the traditional food of this day is pork. Formerly, it was indeed the custom for each family in villages to raise a piglet to be slaughtered some little time before Christmas for the festive table.
On December 31st, we also make the ‘Βασιλόπιτα’ (Vasilόpita). A sweet pie for St. Basil who visits houses at the dawn of New Year’s Day and leaves the presents for the children. It is traditional to bake a coin [called ‘φλουρί’ (flouri, stress on ‘i’)] into the ‘Βασιλόπιτα’. The individual who receives the slice with the coin is considered especially blessed in the coming year!
On December 24th, if you are in Greece, do not be surprised if they ring your doorbell early in the morning! It is groups of children coming over to your place to sing the carols! On Christmas Eve, the children go from house to house singing about the birth of Jesus Christ holding their small metal triangles and hitting them with short metal bars! Open them the door; it is believed to bring good luck into your home. The children will ask you ‘Να τα πούμε;’ (‘Na ta poume?’, literally ‘Shall we say them?’, meaning ‘Shall we sing the carols?’) and you are supposed to reply ‘Να τα πείτε!’ (‘Na ta peite!’, literally ‘Say them!’). When they finish singing, give them some ‘χαρτζιλίκι’ (pocket money)!
On December 31st, the children come again to your house to sing about the New Year!
Have you ever spent Christmas in Greece? If not, put it on your agenda!
Here below you will find even more Omilo Blog links about various Greek traditions during this holiday season. Enjoy!