CHRISTMAS celebration in GREECE:
In GREECE when we talk about the “holidays” we are referring to the holiday period of CHRISTMAS, New Year and Epiphany. CHRISTMAS in GREECE means it’s kourabiedes time again, and the mellow aroma of melomakarona cookies will fill Greek kitchens around the globe.
Traditionally the CHRISTMAS holiday period lasts 12 days in GREECE. There are many customs associated with the “twelve day of CHRISTMAS,” some very old and others relatively recent, like the decorated tree and the turkey on the CHRISTMAS-day table.
If you will be traveling to GREECE at CHRISTMAS, it’s good to remember that many offices, businesses, restaurants, and other amenities may be closed or keeping unusual hours during the holiday season. In some areas, the holiday is preceded by a time of fasting.
In general, don’t expect as many CHRISTMAS displays, lights, or other Western decorations, except of course in the windows of expatriates and the ever-increasing number of Greeks who have adopted Western customs. GREECE has been an oasis of non-commercialism when it comes to CHRISTMAS, though some lament that this has changed. In recent years, the City of Athens has sponsored extensive CHRISTMAS displays and events in Syntagma Square and elsewhere in Athens. However, as the government crisis unfolded and lingered, celebrations have remained somewhat toned down as GREECE attempts to recover from its financial crisis.
Historically, in 354 A.D. it was arranged for the birth of Christ to be celebrated on December 25, the same day that they celebrated the birth of the ancient god Mithra, known as the “invincible sun god” and god of all solar deities in idolatry. With the change, and the turning of people towards other gods, the popularity of the “invincible sun god” dropped and Christ took his place.
Some households keep fires burning through the twelve days, to keep the spirits from entering by the chimney, which is an interesting inversion of the visit of Santa Claus in other countries. The “yule log” in this case initially was a massive log set on end in the chimney, burning or at least smoldering for the entire holiday period. Other households (perhaps less devout) were reduced to simple bribery and would put meat out for the Kallikantzaroi — a more substantial snack than the milk and cookies Westerners traditionally put out for Santa. On Epiphany, the ceremonial blessing of the waters by the local priest was believed to settle the nasty creatures until the next year.
Some local festivals still include representations of these entities, which may be a survival from Dionysian festivals.
We can say that, people in GREECE also celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January. In the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus’s baptism when he was a man. It’s also known as ‘The Blessing of the Waters’. There are many events throughout the country where young men dive into really cold lakes, rivers and the sea to try to be first to get a cross which has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. Whoever gets the cross first is meant to have good luck during the coming year. Epiphany festivals also include blessings of boats & ships, music, dancing and lots of food.
………………..WISH YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS………………..