How does Greece celebrate Christmas? - Greek123

How does Greece celebrate Christmas?

How does Greece celebrate Christmas?

How does Greece celebrate Christmas?

Greek Christmas Celebrations


Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays of the year, if not the most famous. But how does Greece celebrate Christmas? Read on to discover what to expect this season and see how the Greeks celebrate the holiday.



Everyone is familiar during Christmas with the cheery, red-suited figure as the symbol of Christmas. Yet in Greece, this figure is not jolly Saint Nick but a different saint altogether.

While today, Greeks have embraced the modern mythology of Santa Claus, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the saint most associated with giving Christmas presents is not St. Nicholas, but another saint, “Aghios Vasilis,” meaning Saint Basil (Basil the Great a.k.a. Basil of Caesarea). Saint Basil cared for the weak, built a hospital and hospice, and dedicated his family’s inheritance to benefiting the poor. His name day is celebrated on January 1st.



Although Christmas Day is celebrated with big family dinners and joy, traditionally, one thing that makes the day different from the rest of the world is there are often no presents. On the contrary, gifts are customarily handed out on New Year’s Day, celebrating the name day of Greek Santa, “Aghios Vasilis.”

On this day also, Greeks cut the New Year’s cake, called the “Vasilopita,” which contains a coin or charm hidden in the dough. It is said that the person who finds it in their slice will be blessed with good fortune for the year.



While Saint Basil is the star of the show, Saint Nicholas (whose feast day is December 6th) also enjoys Christmas celebrations. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and is honored with decorated boats, often found where you would see Christmas trees.

Of course, Christmas trees have been adopted as a symbol of the holidays in Greece, just like the rest of the world. Yet many Greeks keep up the old tradition, and you will often see boats and trees side by side.



Christmas carols are a long-standing tradition in Greece, but the carols, called kalanda, are pretty different from the famous melodies such as “O Holy Night” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

The kalanda is performed mainly by young children, with the high-pitched ringing of the triangle usually accompanying them. They are often rewarded by their parents and those who choose to open their doors with some pocket change and sweets. Kalanda is performed three times: on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Epiphany.



A big holiday like Christmas comes with exceptional food. The food on Christmas Day varies from region to region, but a few recipes are a must for the whole country.

Pork is almost always prepared as the meat to break the fast. However, stuffed turkey has become popular in recent years, and the New Year’s “Vasilopita” is ceremoniously cut and served in homes and workplaces – almost everywhere.

Most popular, however, are the two traditional Christmas cookies. While most people enjoy both, everyone who grows up in Greece passionately favors one of the two. Kourabiedes are buttery shortbread-like almond cookies made with rosewater and covered in very generous layers of powdered sugar. While melomakarona is soft and syrupy, topped with walnuts with a slightly gingerbread-like flavor, honey is the most crucial ingredient.

Do you follow any of these traditions at home? Let us know in the comments below.


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