Christmas in Greece was never considered a holiday season and was not as important as Easter. But, Greeks' perception about Christmas has changed over the years. Now, Christmas in Greece is considered as an important festival and is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. It is rather the favorite holiday season for children in the country, which means two weeks away from schools, lots of sweets and Christmas gifts. The streets and major cities in Greece are lavishly decorated with beautiful glowing lights.
St. Nicholas is an important icon related to Christmas in Greece.
He is considered as the patron saint of the sailors. St Nicholas is
portrayed as a man with clothes soaked with brine, beard drenched
with saltwater and face covered with sweat because, he fights the
storms and waves to reach the sinking ships and rescue the drowning
sailors. The old custom of carrying a St Nicholas icon in the boat
is still followed in Greece. Even today, many ships will not leave
the port unless a St Nicholas icon is carried on board.
A shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire hanging across the rim
is found in every household of Greece, which is considered the main
symbol of Christmas in Greece. A twig of basil draped around a
wooden cross is hung from the bowl. Some water is kept in the bowl
to keep the basil fresh. Bad spirits called as 'Killantzaroi' appear
on Earth during the twelve days of Christmas. One of the family
members, mostly mother, dips the basil and the cross in the Holy
water and sprinkles it throughout the house to prevent the evil
spirits from entering the house.
Christmas tree was not so popular in Greece. Over the years,
Christmas tree has gained popularity. The tree is decorated
beautifully in every household, one week prior to Christmas.
Christmas lights, angels, stars, colorful and shining Christmas
ornaments are used to decorate the tree. The latest Christmas tree
decorations used in Greece are deer and carol singing Santa.
Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration of Christmas in Greece.
Small boys go from door to door and sing Kalanda, equivalent to
Christmas carols. They receive attractive gifts such as dried figs,
almonds, and sweets.
The grand Christmas feast is a major attraction for both the adults
and children in Greece. 40 days of fasting is observed by Greeks and
the Christmas feast marks the end of the fast. Hams, bacons, loaves
of christopsomo or 'Christ bread' and kourambiethes, a famous Greek
nut cookie are included in the traditional Greek Christmas feast.
Christmas is a very busy time for the Greek women. They spend most
of their time in the kitchen, making delicious Christmas cookies and
Christmas in Greece is considered as an important festival and is celebrated with pomp and gaiety.