It is not only about the colorful ornaments and lights which graciously decorate the city; it is mostly about the warm ambience, which travels around like a liquid substance of joy, going in and out of houses, passing by the big pedestrian streets to finally sit on kids’ reddish cheeks.
It is also about rethinking, appreciating & empathizing. It is about understanding the difference and making space for it.
So Christmas means many different things for every person. It is a complex of religion, history, culture, traditions and rituals. Since in Athens, only 15% of its inhabitants originate from the city, the majority comes from other cities, villages or islands of Greece. Of course, all of them, while celebrating Christmas, keep to a bigger or smaller extent, their home traditions.
While Greeks and mostly Athenians have adopted a more European style concerning Christmas decoration (fir trees, gee plants, alexandrin plants) it would be interesting to remind ourselves and inform others about some unique Greek Christmas traditions!
Starting with some yummy delicacies… one shall not leave Greece without trying kourambiedes and melomakarona! These traditional sweet cookies can be found everywhere during Christmas. From bakeries and patisseries, to random shops which offer them to their clients as a treat! Some of you will be lucky enough to try them homemade!
You may also find christo-psomo (aka Jesus’ bread). How to recognize it? It will be decorated with a cross made of almonds and walnuts. This type of bread originates from more than one regions of Greece, so it is a common Christmas tradition among Greeks (e.g. in Peloponnese and Crete), symbolizing the Holy Communion.
If strolling around residential neighborhoods, you will see wreaths on doors, made of fir trees and having pomegranates on them which symbolize good luck and keep the bad spirits away.
The most popular tree for Christmas is the fir tree, in Greece as well. Nevertheless, it was not always like that. Especially in the islands, the main decorative Christmas symbol was a boat with shiny lights on it!
The Municipality of Athens has been organizing the last months some great activities for kids, teenagers and more…mature adults!
Educational and interactive programs, for the whole family, concerts, theater and lots of music are waiting to be discovered, here.
If you decide to leave Athens for some days in order to visit villages or other cities of Greece, prepare yourselves for more eccentric traditions, where people celebrate in the streets and dress up with unique costumes, related to local legends and myths.
Last but not least, be careful, you might see a kalikantzaros (aka hobgoblin). They love pranks and messing around… only priests can stop them and they are afraid of fire! Merry Christmas ho ho!