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Holiday Customs and Traditions of. Greece. Vocabulary. “Kala Christouyenna” is the traditional Christmas greeting . Christopsomo is the Christ’s bread which is a sweet bread baked into big, various-shaped loaves. An ornament that represents a family’s profession is baked into the crust .

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  • “Kala Christouyenna” is the traditional Christmas greeting.
  • Christopsomo is the Christ’s bread which is a sweet bread baked into big, various-shaped loaves. An ornament that represents a family’s profession is baked into the crust.
  • Day and night, children go from house to house and sing kalandas (carols), which are believed to bless the home.
  • Killantzaroi are evil creatures that are believed to appear during the 12 days of Christmas and Epiphany (Jan. 6) from the center of the earth and slip into homes through the chimney.
  • Vassilopita is a special cake with a coin baked into the crust. The person who gets the piece with the coin inside is believed to have good luck for throughout the new year.
  • Epiphany (Jan. 6) is the day that celebrates the following events:
    • The baptism of Jesus
    • The visit of the Wisemen to Bethlehem
    • The miracle of Cana
      • The changing of water into wine.
  • Instead of Christmas trees like here in America, traditional Greeks decorated wooden ships (often hand-made) since Greece is considered a very nautical country. Modern Greeks have adopted the use of Christmas trees.
  • Christmas boats contain golden objects/coins to symbolize the riches of one’s home.
  • On Christmas Eve, the tree is decorated with presents. These presents stay on the tree until St. Basil’s Day (New Year’s Day) on January 1st, when they are opened.
  • Throughout Greece, there are public displays of lighted and decorated boats, which symbolize the Greek merchant fleet.
  • Decorations usually stay up until January 7, which is the day of St. John (Agios Loannis), the next day of the Epiphany.
  • The most important symbolic decoration during Christmas is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire hung across the rim, which hangs a bit of basil that is wrapped in a wooden cross. The family’s mother dips the cross into holy water and sprinkles the home with the water to keep the killantzaroi away.
christmas in greece
Christmas in Greece
  • Christmas in Greece is celebrated on December 25th.
  • Children believe St. Basil delivers gifts to them by visiting their homes by boat.
  • For Christmas, Greeks fast for 40 days from the start of the season and the week before Christmas, families begin baking for the big Christmas Day feast.
  • Saint Nicholas (Santa) is considered the patron of sailors, saving ships from the “angry” sea. All Greek ships do not leave port without an icon of him on board.
new year s st basil s day
New Year’s (St. Basil’s Day)
  • New Year’s (also called Saint Basil’s Day) is celebrated on January 1st.
  • Greek New Year’s is all about fortune in the coming year and keeping evil spirits away.
  • St. Basil’s day is the time for the “Renewal of Waters”
    • A ritual when all jugs of water in the house are emptied and refilled with “St. Basil’s water”.
  • On New Year’s it is considered lucky to gamble (play games, such as cards, for cash prizes), win or lose.
  • The herb basil is believed to be connected to St. Basil and, on this day, it is considered to have healing and protective powers.