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Christmas Traditions in Greece

christmas tradition in greeceGreece is a port town and its Christmas traditions reflect that. St. Nicholas is not a man that gives out presents to children, naughty or otherwise, but rather a seasoned sailor whose clothes are drenches with ocean water and whose beard is intertwined with seaweed. This version of Nicholas travels continuously through the waves, rescuing ships that have begun to sink in the treacherous waters. Rather than the Christmas tree, the symbol of Christmas in Grecian homes is a clay bowl with a piece of wire suspended across the top. Hanging from the wire is a sprig of basil tied around a wooden cross and below the cross, to keep the basil fresh, is a bit of holy water. During a twelve day period, from Christmas to the Epiphany, December 6th, the Killantzaroi, a type of goblin, rises from the center of the earth to cause mischief.

In an effort to keep them away, once a day someone in the family dips the cross in the holy water in the bowl and uses it to bless each room of the house. The fireplace is kept lit continuously during this time as well. Because fasting is required the 40 days before Christmas, when the holiday arrives it does so with great fanfare. On Christmas Eve children go from door to door singing carols and giving people good blessings for the coming years and are rewarded for their performances, which often include drums and pipe instruments, with candy and fruits. St. Basil’s day, January 6th, is the day gifts are exchanged, which is followed by renewing all the water with St. Basil’s water, and finally an offering to the naiads (spring/fountain spirits).

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