4 Greek Christmas Traditions and Customs
Nov 28, 2019
It really is the most wonderful time of the year. And if you are like most people, you already have an array of family and cultural Christmas traditions. However, if you are interested in adding a few Greek Christmas customs to your festivities, we are more than happy to share a few of our favorites.
Of course, no occasion is celebrated among Greeks without plenty of family, friends, food, and wine. But did you know we have a few unique Christmas customs that many people are not even aware exist?
If you want an inside glance at the special ways we celebrate Christmas, check out the few we’ve listed below—and feel free to add them to your holiday favorites. After all: You don’t have to be Mediterranean to enjoy an authentic Greek Christmas!
Greek Christmas Ships
One of the more popular Greek Christmas traditions is decorating ships. Greece is a maritime culture, so it’s no wonder ships are often incorporated into holiday customs. The decorated ships may be large, handcrafted, fully lit, wooden structures set up as elaborate yard displays or several smaller ships decorated as table centerpieces.
Lighted Greek Christmas boats are also used as tree ornaments, and even as spectacular tree toppers. So, use your imagination and sail away to Christmas wonderland.
Greek Christmas Caroling
On Christmas Eve, it’s a tradition for Greek children to go caroling from door to door. In Greece, this is called “Kalanda.” As a thank you, neighbors may offer the children coins or delicious sweet treats. Such caroling is an opportunity for children to celebrate Christmas, but also to engage neighbors in an offering of love—while inviting them to join in with the joyful musical festivities.
St. Basil’s Day
As the finale of the Christmas season, generally on January 1st, Greeks celebrate St Basil’s day. This is the theologian who was a forefather to the Greek Orthodox Church. St. Basil was known for selling his inherited possessions and giving the funds away because of his compassion for the poor. He also brought gifts to little children at Christmas. Think of St Basil as the Greek St Nicholas.
On this day: Gifts are given, food is plentiful, and Christmas decorations remain aglow. In fact, some traditional Greeks exchange gifts on St Basil’s day, rather than on Christmas, while others enjoy doing both.
St Basil’s Bread
It is said that St Basil had great compassion for the poor and wanted to bless them with financial gifts—all the while preserving their individual dignity. So, he came up with a plan. He had women bake bread and place hidden coins inside each loaf. Then, he would generously hand out the bread to families.
As the people would carve the bread, and find the coin, they would assume the money had accidentally dropped into the dough—saving them the embarrassment from being recipients of charity. On that note: A long standing Greek tradition is to bake bread or cakes (However, to simplify your holiday stress, you can purchase pre made dough), and place a coin inside, as a surprise blessing for the fortunate one who finds it.
You don’t have to spend Christmas in Greece to celebrate in traditional style. For your family holiday dinner, or get together with friends, be sure to pick up Lemon and Vine products at your local grocery store. From our Greek kitchen to your table, we promise: The Mediterranean aromas will fill your home with joyous anticipation, and the flavors will almost sing, “Merry Christmas!”