When we talk about December, we think of winter and celebrations. And also in Greece, winter “really” means winter and celebrating!
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, overall 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 1st of January!.
As in many countries, Greek people celebrate Christmas. The family gathers and 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. New Year
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).
If you have ever been in Greece during this season, you must have noticed all the cookies and pastries in the shops. Winter is a season with plenty of delicious Greek sweets. Here below some examples.
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.
The word Vasilopita is a compound Greek word which means the sweet bread of St. Basil the Great, the one that is cut at home on New Year’s eve or New Year’s day.
Would you like to experience winter in Athens, discover the Greek capital, try the typical food and learn more about the traditions?
This is all possible during a 1-week intensive course while learning Greek!Click here for more info.