Christmas customs and traditions in Greece
Written by Παναγιωτης Αποστολατος on December 21, 2019
As in every feast day, so in the Christmas season there are many customs that are still alive in Greece, whose roots are lost in the depths of the ages. Below we will see some of the best known customs in many parts of the country.
On Christmas Eve, it is commonplace in the villages to hang garlic braids out of the house doors, in order to drive away the slander that affects the happiness of the house. The front door of the houses is also decorated by a fir wreath tree with Christmas ornaments. According to tradition, the wreath brings luck to the occupants of the house.
The decoration of the ship
It is a custom that has tended to disappear in recent years, since its place has taken on the foreign custom of the Christmas tree. The boat symbolizes the new cruise of man in life after the birth of Christ. The children of sailors who lived on the island build their own games, which are usually boats. The boat symbolizes the expectation of children to rejoin their relatives, but also their love for the sea.
Breaking the pomegranate
In Peloponnese, people break the pomegranate. In the morning of New Year’s Eve the homemaker goes to the church holding his pomegranate to bless it. After going to his house, he knocks the door of the entrance and by opening it breaks the pomegranate in power to spill its berries everywhere in the house. Along with breaking the pomegranate he also gives a wish for health, happiness and joy for the New Year. The strong berries symbolize the happy and blessed days that the New Year brings to the house.
A common custom in Crete is the baking of the Christmas bread. It is considered a whole rite, and people use the best materials to make it. The housewives form a big bagel with the half of the dough, and with the other half a cross to decorate it. Using a knife around this bread roll, they create decorations with various designs such as hearts, stars, flowers, etc. It is a custom this Christmas bread to be cut by the homemaker on Christmas Day and to hand over to all those sitting at the festive table.
Santa Claus’ boats
In Chios, a custom on the New Year’s Eve is the sailing boats. According to this, the parishes construct ships of small size. These compete with each other for the quality of construction and for the resemblance to real ships, while the teams of each ship are singing carols.
In Cyprus, the Christmas cake is a sweet that can be found in every house. It is a different cake than the common ones, but equally delicious and very festive, that reminds us the Fruit Cake. It is a customary remnant of the English colonialism in Cyprus. The Christmas cake is covered with white icing or almond and decorated with small ornaments.