Kala Christougenna!

Merry Christmas from Greece

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Midnight Mass

A large amount of the people who live in Greece are Greek Orthodox. A very old and treasured tradition is to attend Midnight Mass, a very peaceful service. After it is over, the family can go home and end their Advent fast with the main Christmas meal.

I Am SO Hungry!

For Greeks, a traditional Christmas meal would be composed of roasted lamb or pork, vegetables, spinach & cheese pie, and various salads. A few sweets you would see on the Christmas table are baklava, thiples, kataifi, melomakarono, and christopsomo.

Dessert

Fabulous Christmas Traditions

Caroling in the Cold

Around Christmastime, young children - especially boys - sing 'kalanda' (carols) in the streets, playing drums and triangles as they go. If they sing well, they might be given treats of sweets, nuts, dried figs, and money.

The Killantzaroi

The Killantzaroi are little demons who supposedly live in the center of the earth, and come in through the chimney to make mischief such as spoiling milk and putting out fires. They only come during the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan 6) though, so you don't have to worry about them for long.

Luckily, there are ways to keep them away. One is to have a shallow wooden bowl with a wire suspended across it. From that wire hangs a wooden cross with a sprig of basil wrapped around it. The bottom of the bowl is filled with a little bit of water to keep the basil fresh. Once a day, a family member dips the cross in some holy water and sprinkles it in every room in the house.

Another way to rid yourself of the little demons is to keep a a fire burning for the time period that they visit.

Blessing of the Waters

Another name for Epiphany, which takes place on January 6th, is the Blessing of the Waters. On Epiphany, they honor Jesus's baptism when he was a man. A common way to celebrate this holiday is to have a priest bless a wooden cross, which is then thrown into river, lake, or the sea. Young men dive into the water, trying to find the cross before anyone else. Whoever snatches up the cross first is supposed to have good luck for the coming year. Other ways that Epiphany is celebrated are festivals that include dancing, music, the blessing of boats and ships, and lots of food.
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St. Basil the Great

Although the people who live in Greece get presents like we do, they probably wouldn't know who Santa Claus was, or why we think December 24 and 25 are so important. Greeks get presents from Aghios Vassilis - who is also known as St. Basil the Great - on January 1st. January 1st is also St. Vassilis's Day, as well as New Years Day.

Things We Share (Sort Of)

Christmas Trees

Although it isn't widely spread - or traditional - Christmas trees are catching on. A huge Christmas tree is set up in Aristotelous Square.

Christmas Lights

Every December, an enormous Christmas tree is set up in Aristotelous Square, in Thessalonki, along with three masted sailing ships. These are all wrapped in lights, and it is a very popular tourist attraction.

St. Nicholas

In Greece, St. Nick is the patron saint of ships and sailing. According to tradition, his beard drips seawater, his clothing is soaked with brine, and his face is covered with sweat from working so hard against the angry sea to rescue sinking ships. Not a single Greek ship would ever leave port without an icon of some sort that represented St Nicholas on board.

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