If you still haven’t decided where to spend this year’s Christmas holidays, Greece will offer you amongst the most unforgettable holidays of your life! Even if Greece may not represent a classical destination for Christmas holidays, you will be surprised to experience its local traditions, religious customs and festive spirit.
Indeed, as an Orthodox country, Christmas represents, after Easter, the second most important cultural and religious event in Greece. Greek Christmas is similar to the Western one, with a highly festive atmosphere, decorations with lights and Christmas trees, while it also includes some specific customs and traditions.
Usually, the Nativity of Christ is celebrated after a 40 days lent. The beginning of Christmas in Greece starts on December 6th with the St Nicolas day feast, considered as the patron saint of Christmas but also the protector of sailors, and ends on January 6, a date when Greeks celebrate the Feast of Epiphany (Ta Fota).
Decorations & Traditions
Except from the common to all western countries trees decorations, you will also witness one of the most beautiful and striking spectacle that represent the boats which are decorated with lights in order to honor St Nicolas.
On Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Eve of Epiphany, children sing the Greek Carols called Kalanda from house to house in their neighborhood, using as instrument the traditional triangle, and are offered treats, presents or coins.
Another difference is that traditionally in Greece, gifts are not offered on Christmas day but on St Basil Day (Agios Vassilis), on January the 1st, since in Greece, St Basil is the original father of Christmas who gave all he possessed to help those in need and gave presents to the children.
Also, in many regions of Greece, people usually hang a pomegranate, symbol of prosperity, above their house’s front door until the New Year; then on New Year, they throw it on the ground to break it and enter back in their house on their right foot; according to tradition, that will bring them good luck for the year to come.
But most importantly, Christmas in Greece is celebrated through innumerable gatherings of friends and family around the holy holiday table, wishing one another “Hronia Polla!” meaning “I wish you many happy years!” around a great and delicious variety of home cooked meals and sweet delicacies.
Traditional food includes the Christmas bread called “Christopsomo”, sweets such as “Melomakarona”, “Kourabiedes” or “Diples”. The traditional Christmas day feast usually includes a stuffed turkey, lamb or roasted pork with cabbage and potatoes.
On New Year’s Day, the day of St Basil (Agios Vasilis) name feast, Greeks “cut” their Vasilopita, a cake where a coin covered in foil is placed before it is baked. Each person present, usually family and friends, receives a part of the cake and whoever gets the coin in his piece of cake, will have a new year full of luck!
Christmas holidays in Greece
If you decide to spend this Year’s Christmas holidays in Greece, you will experience a great array of events and festivities in all major cities such as Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra or Heraklion where music concerts, artistic performances and a number of other cultural events are organized.
During Christmas season, the greatest hotels of major cities in Greece offer attractive Holidays packages and accommodation proposals for every need, to enjoy your winter holidays in Greece within exclusive accommodation.
Christmas in Athens
In Athens for instance, the admirable The Margi Boutique Hotel in Vouliagmeni offers Special Christmas rates, the Tour Hotel Group and its contemporary hotels Achilleas, Arion and the brand new Acropolis Hill in the heart of Athens or Kalamaki Beach in the most beautiful area of the Peloponnese at only 1 hour distance from the city-center, offer exceptional accommodation choices at very attractive rates.
Christmas in Thessaloniki
On the other hand, if you decide to visit the heart of the vibrant city of Thessaloniki, Macedonian Hotels Group offer a great choice to discover the city while staying in one of its beautiful Excelsior or City hotel and benefit from amazing value for money services and Daios Luxury Living will accompany you with its enchanting Christmas spirit and its magnificent views over the waters of Thermaikos Gulf.
For nature’s lovers, do not miss to visit Greece’s traditional villages located on the mountainsides, especially in Mainland Greece; their picturesque character on wintertime will definitely welcome you in Greece’s most genuine Christmas spirit and traditions! Christmas in Greece is most of all about sharing its joy and love with your beloved ones, family and friends, in the most authentic and welcoming manner; make sure to experience it once in your lifetime and you will for sure discover the true meaning of Christmas Celebration!