Christmas in Greece: Facts About Greek Christmas Traditions

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.

Facts About Christmas Cards

Here are some facts about Christmas cards.

  • The ancient Chinese sent greetings cards to wish their friends and family good luck for the coming year. In 15th century Germany, cards celebrating the new year were also produced and sent.

  • The first commercial Christmas card was devised and sent by Henry Cole in 1843 who sold the cards for a shilling. Cole was an English inventor who also founded the V & A Museum.
  • In the 19th century, the Post Office delivered cards on Christmas Day in the UK. Postmen were often known as robins because of their bright red uniforms and robins became a  popular card Christmas card motif.
  • In America, Louis Prang, a printer, produced the first commercially available Christmas cards. By 1881, over 5 million cards were being produced every year in the US.
  • Every year in the UK alone, an estimated 1.8 billion Christmas cards are sent and received. The average UK household sends out about 50 cards each Christmas and most are written and mailed by women.
  • Designing and making personal Christmas cards is one of the most popular craft hobbies in the UK. Charity cards are also popular, raising an estimated £50 million each year.
  • There are about 800 greeting card publishers in the UK, most of which are small businesses with just a few employees. The greeting card industry employs over 100,000 people.
  • About 60 percent of all greeting card sales are Christmas cards. About 33 percent of all cards have religious themes, while snowmen, reindeer, Santa and shopping are also popular.
  • President Eisenhower sent the first official White House Christmas card in 1953. The few cards signed by President Kennedy before his assassination are some of the most valuable Christmas cards ever written.
  • One of the earliest Christmas cards sold for £22,000 in 2001. There is a large and valuable collection of cards collected by Queen Mary, in the British Museum.

What next? Find out more Christmas facts by visiting our Christmas resources page.

10 Interesting Facts About Christmas

Here are some facts about Christmas.

  • Christmas has been celebrated for over 2,000 years to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. However, long before Jesus was born, the middle of winter has traditionally been a time for celebration.

  • In the United States, Christmas has been a recognized holiday since 1870. An estimated 2.1 billion people around the world celebrate the holiday in some way.
  • Christmas is a huge holiday in the UK, Europe and the US, and it is also celebrated around the world in countries such as Brazil, China, India and Nigeria.
  • Christmas puddings originated in old England, when hunters carried the filling mixture on long journeys. In the 1700s the rich cake was only eaten on special occasions. Over time it became a Christmas food.
  • The first Christmas card was printed in London in 1843, although medieval wood prints with seasonal themes were produced in the Middle Ages. Nearly 2 billion cards are sent in the UK each year.
  • Father Christmas is based on St. Nicholas, a 4th century Turkish monk who gave gifts to the poor. In the mid 19th century, a magazine published pictures of him wearing a red and white robe, and with a white beard.
  • Christmas was banned in mid-17th century England, by Oliver Cromwell. It was also banned in Boston by early colonists, with anyone celebrating being fined 5 shillings.
  • Norway has given Britain the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square every year since 1947 as a gift for the help received from Britain during World War 2. The tree can be 20 metres tall.
  • In old England, a pig’s head with mustard was the traditional Christmas meal. The custom of putting coins in Christmas pudding originally represented the Wise Men’s 3 gifts.
  • The idea of Christmas stockings comes from the story of St. Nicholas filling old socks with gold for three poor sisters. One of the largest stockings was made in London in 2007 – it was 32 metres long!

What next? Discover more Christmas facts by visiting our Christmas resources page.