Christmas in Greece means it’s Kourabiedes time again, and the gentle scent of melomakarona cookies will fill Greek cuisine around the globe.
Spending Christmas in Greece
If you will be traveling to Greece for Christmas, it is good to remember that many offices, stores, restaurants, and other amenities may be closed, or keep unusual hours during the vacation season. Turkey is a big part of the Greek Christmas eating habits, and it is common to find this bird on most Greek Christmas tables. In some areas, the vacation is preceded by a period of fasting. In Greece, the Christmas season is in full swing until 6. December of the Feast of St. St. Nicholas , to be exchanged as gifts, and lasts until 6. January, the Epiphany .
Christmas displays in Greece
Usually not so many Christmas displays, lamps or other Western decorations, except of course in the windows of expatriates and the ever-increasing number of Greeks expect to have adopted Western customs. Greece has an oasis of non-commerce when it comes to Christmas, although some lament that this has changed. In recent years, the city of Athens has sponsored extensive Christmas displays and events in Syntagma Square and elsewhere in Athens. However, as the government crisis unfolded and lingered, celebrations have remained somewhat tempered as Greece tries to recover from its financial crisis.
Christmas in Greece is traditionally a solemn, religious holiday. Beautiful Christmas carols called kalandas was handed down from Byzantine times and to the reverent quality of the celebration.
Greek Christmas Elf Lore
While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not as benign. Malicious and even dangerous sprites of the called Kallikantzaroi (or Callicantzari ), hunting humans only during the twelve days of Christmas, between Christmas and Epiphany itself on 6. January. Descriptions of them vary, and in one area they are made of wood or iron – boots to wear believe the better people tread, while other areas insist that they hooved, not booted. Almost always male, Other regions in them the forms of wolves or even monkeys.
In fairy tales, the 12 days of her power figure in a "wicked stepmother" story where a young girl is forced to go alone to a mill through the 12 days because her stepmother hopes that the Kallikantzaroi theirs will snatch away.
The Greek Julblock
Some households keep fires burning through the 12 days to keep the spirits from entering through the chimney, which in other countries is an interesting reversal of Santa’s visit. The "Julklotz" in this case was initially a massive log set on end in the fireplace, burning or at least smoldering for the entire vacation season. Protection herbs such as hyssop, thistle and asparagus were hung by the chimney to keep the Kallikantzaroi removed. Other households (perhaps less pious) were reduced to simple bribery and would pay for the put – meat from Kallikantzaroi more essential snack -a than the milk and cookies in the West traditionally extinguished for Saint.
On Epiphany was the solemn blessing of the water by the local priest believes the nasty creatures to settle until next year. Some local festivals are still representations of these entities, which may be a survival of Dionysian festivals.