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Christmas Traditions in Greece Christmas Traditions in Greece
by The Ovi Team
2020-12-24 09:22:08
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St. Nicholas is important in Greece as the patron saint of sailors. According to Greek tradition, his clothes are drenched with brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his face is covered with perspiration because he has been working hard against the waves to reach sinking ships and rescue them from the angry sea.

chr003To members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as are most Greek Christians, Christmas ranks second to Easter in the roster of important holidays. Yet there are a number of unique customs associated with Christmas that are uniquely Greek. On Christmas Eve, village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalanda, the equivalent of carols.

Often the songs are accompanied by small metal triangles and little clay drums. The children are frequently rewarded with sweets and dried fruits. Although this tradition is not as prevalent as it once was, especially in larger cities, it still continues on.

Although fewer and fewer people partake in the 40 days of fasting prior to Christmas, the Christmas feast is looked forward to with great anticipation by adults and children alike. Pigs are slaughtered and on almost every table are loaves of christopsomo ("Christ Bread"). This bread is made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and the crusts are engraved and decorated in some way that reflects the family's profession.

Turkey is also a common meal that is served during Christmas. On Crete, it was the custom for each family in the village to raise a pig, or "hog" (hiros in Greek), which would be slaughtered on Christmas Eve and served as the main holiday dish the next day. Christmas trees are becoming a more common site in family homes and in stores throughout Greece, but still not extensively used like other parts of the world.

Christmas in Athens - The City of Athens transforms Sytangma and other large public squares during Christmas time into mini Christmas villages, the most notable being the Sugar Village at Syntagma Square. The National Gardens, Kotzia Square, and areas in Gazi are also host of Christmas fanfare.

In almost every home the main symbol of the season is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. A small amount of water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a 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 away from the house.

There are a number of beliefs connected with the Killantzaroi, which are a species of goblins or sprites who appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany (January 6). These creatures are believed to emerge from the centre of the earth and to slip into people's house through the chimney. More mischievous than actually evil, the Killantzaroi do things like extinguish fires, ride astride people's backs, braid horses' tails, and sour the milk.

To further repel the undesirable sprites, the hearth is kept burning day and night throughout the twelve days. The “appearance” of these little creatures varies from region to region but in general they are half-animal, half-human monsters, black, hairy, with huge heads, glaring red eyes, goats' or asses' ears, blood-red tongues hanging out, ferocious tusks, monkeys' arms, and long curved nails, and commonly they have the foot of some beast. On the island of Skyros, a dance is preformed on Epiphany to kick them off the island until the next year.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-12-25 13:40:31
A footnote on Santa Claus. St. Nicholas is also important in Bari Italy which has the tomb of of the saint brought there by sailors from Asia Minor or present day Turkey. For indeed before he transmuted into a jolly old man with a white beard he was and still is a saint who went around leaving gifts incognito. There is always a vestige of truth in every myth. It is up to us to discover it beyond many inanities that have grown around Christmas to the point that we have forgotten the very purpose and meaning of the celebration: the birth of the Prince of Peace and Love.


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