Christmas Traditions from Greece
The festive spirit of the holidays is very much alive in a country with strong religious traditions and a deep sense of family such as Greece. Christmas is one of the most heartfelt celebrations in the Orthodox year and, of course, Christmas Traditions from Greece are nothing but unique to the local Christmas experience.
The Christmas Boat
Maybe one of the most important symbols in Greek Christmas remains the karavaki. This is a small boat has lights as the main decoration. And is normally in the main square of any town or village. The more international and better-known Christmas tree has also been adopted by locals, but the little boat tradition remains pretty much alive.
This boat is related to the traditions of a country which has always maintained a unique relationship with the sea. As a matter of fact, the Christmas boat is the most beloved ornament of the season on many islands.
The Kallikantzaroi and the Twelve Days of Christmas
The universal myth of evil spirits also has its own Greek version. This tells us that there is a tree which connects our world to a darker underworld beneath us. These evil spirits, locally known as kallikantzaroi, spend the year under that tree. They try to saw their way to reach our world.
And these evil elves manage to succeed during the Twelve Days of Christmas (from December 25 to January 6) since Jesus Christ has not been baptized yet.
The legend tells us that the spirits wander freely. They also create distress and people manage to keep them away by burning wood.
Sometimes people even burn old shoes in their fireplace.
Greek Santa: Saint Basil
Santa Claus is not Saint Nicholas in Greece. It is known, instead, as Saint Basil, (Agios Vasilis). This saint does not deliver his presents on the Christmas morning but visits the Greek households a week later. In fact, it is on New Year’s Day that the Greeks traditionally exchange their presents.
There is a traditional dish related to the arrival of Saint Basil. Vasilopita is a sweet cake that moms cook for the first day of the year which would hide a coin inside. The lucky one receiving the portion with the coin is believed to start the year with a touch of fortune.
Christmas Traditions from Greece at the Table
A table gathering family and friends could not be missing as a key part of local celebrations. Being food an important cultural trait, dishes have gone from generation to generation. Now they are classics of any Greek holiday dinner.
No dinner can start better than with a selection of sauces and soups from different areas of the country. From the rustic skordalia, a sauce made of potatoes and garlic to the more traditional avgolemono chicken soup.
Lamb is the favorite meat to for Christmas on Greece, and in Crete especially. A roasted lamb that has spent over 6 hours in the oven, absorbing the mountain aromas of thyme, rosemary, and oregano is a delicacy that cannot miss on any Christmas table.
Greek Christmas Cookies
This classic duo of the Christmas traditions from Greece is among the favorite treats both for locals and travelers. Kouriabiedes and Melomakarona are part of any Christmas menu and add a sweet taste to the end of any meal.
Kouriabiedes are a variety of shortbread cookies. They are rather soft and have a layer of confectioners sugar. Melomakarona, instead, has from olive oil and honey among the main ingredients. Sometimes it also contains cinnamon. These two biscuits can be great if accompanied by krasomelo, the local mulled wine, or even better, with rakomelo a strong spirit made from Cretan raki, with added honey and spices.
Celebrate with Family and Friends
To spend a wonderful Christmas Eve, nothing better than a festive table in the company of our loved ones. Make it a romantic Christmas dinner for two, in the most refined environment, such as our Brillant, you can check our proposals in this link. Or go for a more relaxed gathering with friends, maybe sharing a table in the trendy 626 All Day Lounge and City Garden. Here you can take a look at the festive menu.
Both venues have their special festive menu as well as a dedicated proposal for children. Book a table with us for this Christmas season, avoid the stress of cooking and enjoy the special atmosphere of Christmas on the Greek island of Crete.