Christmas Celebration in Greece

How is celebrate Christmas in Greece

Christmas in Greece is a significant and festive holiday celebrated with various traditions and customs, both religious and secular. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in Greece:

Advent Season

The Christmas season in Greece begins on December 6th with the feast of Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), the patron saint of sailors and the protector of Greece. This day is celebrated with church services and events.

Christmas Decorations

Greek homes are beautifully decorated with lights, ornaments, and Christmas trees, similar to the way Christmas is celebrated in many Western countries. However, it's common for the Christmas tree to be decorated on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Boat

In some coastal areas of Greece, it is customary to decorate a small boat, often referred to as the "Karavaki" or "Christmas Ship," with lights and ornaments to symbolize the maritime heritage of the country.

Christmas Traditions

Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas with church services, including the Divine Liturgy on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, a special service, called the "Orthros," is held, and people receive lit candles to take home.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, known as "Παραμονή των Χριστουγέννων" (Paramoni ton Christouyennon), is a time for families to come together and enjoy a festive meal. Traditionally, the meal is meat-free and often includes seafood and vegetarian dishes due to the Advent fast leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Carols

In Greece, Christmas carolers, known as "Kalikantzari," visit homes, sing carols, and are given small gifts or treats. This tradition is more common in rural areas.


In Greece, gift-giving is primarily associated with the Feast of St. Basil, which falls on January 1st. On this day, children receive gifts and sweet treats.

Kourabiedes and Melomakarona

These are traditional Greek Christmas cookies. Kourabiedes are buttery shortbread cookies dusted with powdered sugar, while melomakarona are honey-soaked spice cookies. Both are popular during the holiday season.

Agios Vasilis (Saint Basil)

In Greece, Saint Basil (Agios Vasilis) is associated with gift-giving on New Year's Day, and his feast day is celebrated on January 1st. Children receive gifts on this day, and a special cake called "Vasilopita" is prepared, with a hidden coin inside.

New Year's Day

The arrival of the New Year is celebrated with fireworks and festive gatherings, and it's common to exchange New Year's wishes and gifts.

Christmas Village and Markets

In larger cities and towns, you may find Christmas markets and festive displays with holiday lights, decorations, and activities.

Lighting of Candles

Lighting candles is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations. Many Greeks attend the midnight church service and take a lit candle home to bless their house and family.

Christmas in Greece is a time for both religious observance and festive gatherings with family and friends. The holiday season extends into the New Year, and the traditions and customs vary by region and family. It's a time for warmth, sharing, and celebrating Greek culture and heritage.

Until recently, Christmas was never considered much of a holiday in Greece. But in recent years things have slowly changed and now the occassion is celebrated lavishly. The Christmas season in Greece now begins on December 6th, which is Saint Nicolas day, and ends on January 6th, the day of Epiphany. Celebrations really pick-up as Christmas day gets closer, usually from the 20th of December. Streets are packed with people buying Christmas gifts for their loved ones, as well as Christmas carolers singing Christmas songs. Festive shopping continues way after Christmas Day, what with New Year's Day following up the festival.

In major cities and towns of Greece, dazzling decorations are made with brilliant lights strung across most of the streets. Shops are decorated with all the usual Christmas ornaments, and the festive mood is apparent.

Most of the Christmas traditions in Greece are more or less similar to the West. A popular tradition is small village children travelling from house to house on Christmas Eve singing 'kalanda', the equivalent of Christmas carols and offering their good wishes. In return they recieve dried figs, almonds, walnuts, lots of sweets, coins, small gifts and other tokens of appreciation. Sometimes they are given small gifts as well.

A number of rituals are associated with the observance of the festival in Greece. One well-known custom is hanging a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross in a shallow wooden bowl. Once during the day, a family member, usually the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the 'Killantzaroi' (mischievous spirits) away. Another ritual performed to get the same benefit is keeping the hearth burning at all times throughout the twelve days. Gift-giving takes place on St. Basil's Day (January 1). On this day all water jugs in the house are emptied and refilled with new "St. Basil's Water." The ritual is known as the "renewal of waters".

Christmas trees are not commonly used in Greece. But these days, in most Greek homes an evergreen tree is decorated with tinsel and a star placed on top. Priests sometimes go from house to house sprinkling holy water around to get rid of the bad spirits who may be hiding in people's houses.

The feast is a grand attraction of the Greek Christmas festivities and greatly awaited by adults and children alike. The menu includes such dishes as roasted Lamb and pork along with loaves of spicy golden 'christopsomo' ('Christ bread'). This bread is usually made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and their crusts are indicative of the profession of the family.

Christmas in Greece

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