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Christmas in Greece

Updated on January 28, 2016
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Carolina lives on the Greek island of Crete, has published a guide book, and runs a website about living in Crete.

Greece in winter

Crete Lefka Ori, always snow covered at Christmas.
Crete Lefka Ori, always snow covered at Christmas.

Christmas, New Year and Epiphany Traditions in Greece

Christmas in Greece "Xristouyenna" is celebrated in much the same way as in other western countries, within the country and the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Greek Orthodox church is central to many Christmas celebrations in Greece, with church services held throughout the Christmas and New Year period. Christmas is a very special time for Greek Orthodox Christians, but it is not the greatest celebration for the church - Easter in Greece is the most important Greek holiday.

Christmas trees are decorated in homes and colourful lights strung outside on balconies and in gardens. Towns and villages are lit up with Christmas lights and displays. Boats are also decorated - not just those in the harbours, but small boats placed in town squares and in gardens - in honour of St Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors in Greece.

Christmas In Athens is enchanting with the main Syntagma Square being transformed into a winter wonderland of Christmas lights, decorations, a carousel and Christmas stalls.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The 12 days of Christmas run from Christmas Day to January 6th, Epiphany.

There are a number of special traditional Greek Christmas and New Year customs.

Christmas Day is celebrated on the 25th December, while Santa Claus or "Agios Vassilis" (St. Basil) as he is known in Greece, visits Greek children on New Year's Eve rather than Christmas Eve.

Christmas Carols (the 'Kalanda') are sung by children on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and the the Eve of Epiphany.

Christmas biscuits, cookies and sweet breads can be found on every table in Greece at Christmas time - home baked kourabiedes (melt-in-the-mouth shortbread smothered in icing sugar), Melomakarona (honey, cinamon and nut biscuits and christospomo (which translates as Christ's Bread, a traditional sweet Christmas bread).

Christmas in Athens

New Year in Greece

New Year in Greece is celebrated with large outdoor parties in the town and city squares, usually with live music, dancing and fireworks.

Greeks also love to gamble on New Years Eve and play cards and a game of dice 'zaria'.

Epiphany in Greece

Ephiphany, "Ta Fota" or "Theofania" in Greek, on the 6th January commemorates Christ's Baptism and is another important Greek national and church holiday.

The Blessing of the Waters is symbolised by the throwing of a cross into the sea by a priest, while swimmers brave the chilly waters to retrieve it.


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