With Christmas just around the corner, it is all I could think of. I have been talking about the monetary aspects of Greece, from the cost of living to the best credit cards and similar topics. But let us talk about a more fun topic today, that is, how we celebrate Christmas here in Greece. I have seen Christmas in multiple countries of Europe, in the Asian subcontinent, and in the land down under. I think Christmas in Europe is one of the best in many aspects. Most of Europe is already amazing throughout the year. Around Christmas, it is appropriately decorated, locals are extra lovely, and fewer people visit tourist spots (since more public is heading towards shops, malls and markets). Seeing smiling faces, giggling kids and decorated streets are always lovely. If nothing of this sort matters to you right now, you probably need a break more than the rest of us and what better place than Greece to enjoy your Christmas break.
How Is Christmas Celebrated In Greece
Christmas is a big deal in Greece, and Greeks celebrate this holiday season way past even New Year’s Eve. People around the world look forward to celebrating their Christmas in Greece. Celebrations officially kicked off on 24th December, early morning, when kids visit the neighbourhood with drums and musical triangles singing carols. “Kalanta” is sung by these Greek kids while visiting the neighbourhood this evening and enjoying sweets, dry nuts and gifts in return.
Other than decorating Christmas trees, Greek households also love decorating small boats. They think decorating boats show their love and respect for the sea.
Greece has terrific summers, with Mediterranean weather on the islands, and it turns windy during winters in the Christmas season. The mainland is much colder, with snow-capped mountains.
Greeks believe that evil spirits called “kallikantzaroi” appear in these 12 days of Christmas celebrations. These spirits enter from the chimneys of their houses and leave on 6th January on the arrival of Epiphany. Greeks burn carefully selected Yule logs every evening throughout these 12 days to keep away evil spirits. Then priests sprinkle blessed water and close doors for the evil spirits to enter till next year.
Christmas in Greece is different from in western countries. There are decorated houses with lights along with a tradition: they put basil in fresh water and sprinkle its water around the house. They hang basil on a cross and pomegranate on their front door. Then they sprinkle dry nuts outside the entrance, stomp their feet and enter the house that shows prosperity for them after breaking it.
What Is Saint Basil Day In Greece?
The Father of Christmas, Santa Clause, is named Agios Vassilios in Greece. For Greeks, Saint Basil is their Santa clause. Saint Basil was a bishop in the famous town of Cappadocia and one of the finest orators of Christianity of his time. Saint Basil is said to have been incredibly kind to the poor and children. He used to distribute gifts among the poor and children around the new year. He is considered a saint by Christians from the east and west. In his memory, Greeks exchange gifts not on Christmas eve but on new years eve. According to the Greek Orthodox, St. Basil left the world on New Year’s Eve. He used to help the poor and continue his tradition; Greeks exchange their Christmas gifts on New Year’s Eve.
Christmas Markets In Greece
Greece is famous for its shopping. Its shopping markets during the Christmas season are a great attraction for tourists. Streets light up from the start of December to show that Christmas is coming, Christmas markets are filled with stalls that sell niche items, and then there are cotton candy stalls for kids, Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds. It gets magical for visiting people or those who have seen the same market for like last 30 years. Homemade soaps, jewellery, decorative items, souvenirs, rugs and traditional handicrafts are the main attractions of these markets. Christmas markets and fairgrounds in Athens, Thessaloniki, the Town of Drama, Mykonos, Patras, Kalavryta, and Agios Athanasios are amazingly famous in Greece.
If you are already in Athens, it’s all good to go for Christmas celebrations. Noel in Athens is very popular for its decorations on Christmas eve. This place serves delicious food to enjoy your festive environment. The archaeological museum and Parthenon gallery are the added attractions for noel. Aristoteles Square in Thessaloniki is famous for its vast decorated Christmas tree. Most traditionally, it is officially celebrated with music, symphony sounds, and delicious baked cookies. If you are with small kids, this place will never disappoint you as it also has a Christmas train and carousel.
Apart from the city’s hustle and bustle, if you want to visit an island during your holiday, Mykonos Island is your place to go. Agios Stefanos church starts a feast on the eve of the 27th, and it goes till the next day.
Patras is a small town that converts itself into a fairy-tale village during Christmas. So, if you want to enjoy Christmas quietly, this place gives you peace; that is all you want to have. It’s a well-lit village with good shopping markets.
Skiing In Greece
You may not be aware that Greece is home to dozens of skiing resorts and stations worth visiting. Parnassos is the best-equipped ski station in Greece near Athens. This is the largest one in Greece. On the northern side of Greece, the second biggest one is 3-5 Pigadia, surrounded by forest.
Then comes Karpenisi, situated on the Velouhi plateau, which offers 17 slopes and a separate black slope for experienced skiers.
Kalavryta is in the mountains and gives you an excellent opportunity for skiing during the Christmas holidays providing the most significant slope in Greece. We suggest you make reservations before coming to any skiing station to avoid inconvenience.
Weather Around Christmas:
The weather in December is significantly different across different cities in Greece; Athens is comfy, around 8 Celsius in December, yes, that is 46 Fahrenheit. It is that nice in and around Athens, but the downside of it is that you do not get snow in Athens around Christmas. It does not feel like Christmas without snow, does it 🙂 Well, at least it is cold. Think about the people celebrating Christmas while sweating head to toe, I was in Melbourne a few years ago during the Christmas period, and all I could think of was, where can I get my next ice-cold slurpy. So, enjoy the pleasant weather of Athens during the holiday season.
If you are in Greece around the holiday season and want the chilly effect with it, you could try spending time in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece and filled with charming historical sights to see. It has buildings and architecture that would make you go back in time to the Roman empire, a bit of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. You will find the ruins of a Roman palace built by 4th-century emperor Galerius and a must-see historical monument, Rotunda, which is claimed to be the oldest Christian church in the world. It is an exciting place for people who love to read about and see historical monuments.
Ohh, and for those who want a significantly warmer Christmas, you could head towards the islands. Beautiful turquoise water, mesmerising beaches, Greek cuisine, wow, I feel like buying a ticket to Santorini right now 😛
Food Scene In Greece Around Christmas
The food scene all across Greece is bustling during the Christmas period. People invite friends and families for dinners. Couples and friends eat at fancy places, and people try new recipes at home. So much food is prepared, with love and consumed within the next hour or two. The upper half of Greece, its northern part that consists of Macedonia, Alexandropoulos and Thessaloniki, has stews and soups as a tradition. Traditional Christmas dinner is hosted with roasted lamb, a pie made with spinach and cheese, served with vegetables on the side. With the western influence on Greek cuisine, some households also cook turkey for Christmas dinner. Greeks love their dips, and why not, those are made with such perfection it takes the meal to a whole new level. The famous St. Basil pie is an integral part of New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Greeks love to eat sweets, and Christmas time is ideal for making and eating multiple sweets like melomakarona, kourabiedes, and baklava, and traditionally they keep christopsomos as well on their dinner table during the holiday season. There are more desserts too, which are equally famous, made with usual Greek perfection and taste unique; the list just goes on 🙂
Christmas celebrations have their own charm in Greece. If you are not in Greece, we would recommend you book your ticket as soon as possible and visit Greece during the Christmas holidays. These 12 days of festivities keep you so engaged that you would love to come here again next year. Happy Christmas 😊