Greek Christmas Traditions | Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Greece

Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated in many countries across the globe. Christmas in Greece is celebrated according to the Greek Orthodox traditions. Let’s see some facts about how Greeks celebrate the winter holidays, followed by some common local Christmas traditions!

Greek Christmas Facts | New Year’s Eve in Greece

  1. Christmas day in Greece is celebrated on the 25th of December. The date differs from other Orthodox countries that celebrate Christmas in January.
  2. New Year’s Eve in Greece is often a bigger celebration than Christmas. That’s the official day of gift exchanging.
  3. Presents are brought on New Year’s day by Saint Basil, rather than Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus.
  4. On January 6, Greeks celebrate the Theophany, rather than the Epiphany. This day is also called “Phota”.

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Greek Christmas & New Year’s Traditions

  • Although many Greeks now decorate a pine tree for Christmas, the local tradition is to decorate a small wooden boat with Christmas lights. The little vessel often symbolizes the family members who work in maritime shipping and are absent during the holidays.
  • Pomegranates -real or fake (e.g. ceramic pomegranates)- are a popular New Year’s gift in Greece; they have been a symbol of good luck for many centuries. In some parts of Greece, it is common to smash a pomegranate at your doorstep to bring luck to your household.
  • Roasted turkey is not a traditional Greek Christmas meal. Each region has its own local Christmas delicacies. However, pork is a common main Christmas meal.
  • Popular holiday sweets are kourabiedes and melomakarona. The first are covered with powder sugar, resembling snowy mountains, while the second are covered with honey.
  • On Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and the Eve of the Theophany, children visit neighboring houses to sing the respective carols. The owners are therefore blessed and offer the children money or candy in return. This custom is unfortunately becoming less common in Athens and other big cities, due to safety reasons.
  • Between Christmas and the Theophany on January 6, rumor has it that little goblins, named Kallikantzaroi, roam the streets freely. In some villages, locals place food on their doorsteps to get on their good side.
  • Greeks exchange gifts on New Year’s day, rather than on Christmas. Children write letters to Saint Basil asking for the gift of their choice.
  • The Vasilopita is a pie consumed on New Year’s day. It can be translated as “King’s Pie”. A small coin is hidden in one of the pieces and the member of the household who finds it is set to have a very lucky year.
  • On the day of the Theophany, each town, city, village, or municipality, performs the “Megas Agiasmos” or “Great Blessing” of the local waters. This is followed by a custom in which a priest throws a cross into the waters and a team of swimmers try to catch it. The swimmer who manages to rescue the cross receives a great blessing.

These were some popular Greek Christmas facts and customs. You can leave a comment with traditions from your country down below!

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