Here are some facts about Greek Christmas celebrations, traditions and customs.
- Christmas in Greece comes with many old traditions and plenty of festivities. Most towns and villages like to decorate with lots of lights, bells and angels.
- Roast pork is the traditional Christmas meal during Christmas in Greece. Also popular is bread called Christopsomo that has a cross design baked into it and is eaten after Christmas dinner.
- On January 1st, a popular baked snack is a cake called Vasilopita. Pieces are cut for the Virgin Mary, Christ and Saint Vasileios and finding the hidden coin in the cake brings good luck.
- Greeks believe that ugly goblins enter their house to eat food and tease people during the Christmas period. Many homes keep a fire going for 12 days to keep the goblins out.
- In some areas a pomegranate is hung in the doorway of the home. During New Year, smashing the dried fruit, stamping on it and then entering the house brings good luck.
- Many Greeks wrap basil around a wooden cross, instead of having a Christmas tree. During Christmas, the cross is dipped in water each day and sprinkled around the home to keep evil spirits away.
- Singing carols is popular, especially on the three official carol days, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and January 5th. Children visit homes, singing, playing a triangle and asking for money.
- One of Europe’s tallest Christmas trees is planted each year in Syntagma Square in Athens. The ceremony of the lighting of the tree is accompanied by music and dancing.
- In Greek tradition, St. Nicholas is also said to protect sailors. Fishing boats are decorated with blue and white lights, and the Greek navy performs a concert dedicated to Father Christmas.
- During Epiphany on January 6th, priests bless the waters, and the ships sailing on them. Ships blow their whistles in thanks, and on land church bells are rung.
What next? Find out more about Greece, visit our Christmas Around the World page, or discover some facts about the Ancient Greeks.