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Christmas and New Year traditions in Greece

Emilija Arnait ir Gabriel Bilit 2012m. iluts Vydno gimnazija

Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration. From the crack of dawn, children all over Greece get ready for their Carols, equipped with their triangles they go all over the neighbourhoods singing the Kalanda, the Greek Christmas Carol. After they finish their song people will give them some money and both sides will say the wish "Ke tou Hronou" (Next year again).

Greece is a country where traditions and customs are a part of everyday life. Most holidays in Greece are celebrated traditionally, and Christmas is no exception. Christmas caroling is very popular, and although you might hear them being sung at any given moment during the holiday season, there are actually three "official" caroling days. The custom is that children go from house to house singing the carol, with the accompaniment of a triangle, and residents of the houses give them a small amount of money.

Christmas, like many other holidays in Greece, is a time for feasting. In the past years, Christmas turkey has become very popular as the main dish of the holiday. Traditionally, the main course of Christmas dinner in Greece is roast pork, with a variety of side delicacies. Other main dish is Christmas bread. But no matter what the main dish is, one thing is certain: Christmas food in Greece is delicious!

The decorated Christmas tree, artificial or natural, is in many houses many weeks before Christmas with Christmas lights, stars ,angels, and any kind of shining Christmas ornaments. Also, most Greek houses will decorate the exterior of their house with Christmas lights, deers, Carol singing Santas and the latest Christmas decorations. In Athens almost every balcony of the concrete jungle of Athens is decorated with small illuminated Christmas trees and singing Santa Clauses which are give a unique, if somewhat kitsch, atmosphere that Athens can have only during Christmas and New Year's Eve. All this can be more magical if Athens is covered with snow (something very rare and very short) .

Due to the nature of the Christian Orthodox religion, Christmas is a very religious holiday in Greece. The season starts of with Saint Nicolas day and continues with many other saints' days up till Christmas. It is customary for those of faith to go to church on Christmas morning for the religious service. New Year's Day is also Saint Vasileios day. The Christmas season winds down with the Theophania on January 6 th. On this day around Greece, waters are blessed and a cross is thrown into the waters. Dozens of brave young people dive into the freezing water to retrieve the cross, which is said to bring good luck to the person that reaches it first.


The holiday continues with the New Year's Eve celebrations, where the home gathering is the same as in Christmas only, this time, the main food will be mostly roast pork or lamb. On New Year's Eve the children will sing again but this time the New Year Carols. On New Year's Eve the home entertainments concentrates mainly on card games. The reason probably for this is the so called Guri (Luck). Which means that if you win that night the new year will bring you luck. At 12 O'clock the lights will be switched off for a few seconds and every one will go out to light fireworks.


January 1st is an important date in Greece because it is not only the first day of the New Year but it is also St. Basil's Day. St. Basil was one the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor. He is thought to have died on this date so this is how they honor him. New Year is perhaps even more festive and important then Christmas as it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of St Basil's kindness to children and the stories of how he would come in the night and leave gifts for the children in their shoes.

Thank you for attention