Enjoy a wonderful Christmas and winter season in Greece this year! Greece is often referred to as “the land of the gods”, but 94% of the population is Eastern Orthodox, so Christmas is a very important religious celebration there. Christmas in Greece is celebrated from December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) to January 6th (Epiphany). According to the Orthodox Church, Epiphany is a celebration to commemorate the baptism of Jesus. On Christmas Eve, many children in Greece go out to the streets to sing kalanda (carols). They also play triangles and drums as they sing.
Christmas trees are becoming more popular in Greece, especially in the cities, but they aren’t traditional. Instead, most houses have a shallow wooden bowl with water in it. A wire is suspended across the top with a wooden cross hanging from it. A sprig of basil is wrapped around the cross. Some homes have model ships as well, that are decorated. This is because the Greek population also celebrates St. Nicholas Day. We think of St. Nicholas as Santa Claus, but in Greece he is known as the saint who protects sailors.
If you visit Greece at Christmas, make sure you visit Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki. Here, you can see a large Christmas tree, along with typical Greek Christmas decorations, including 3 sailing ships. This is a popular place for Greeks to go and look at decorations.
Another tradition in Greece is to fast for 40 days during Advent. After fasting for 40 days, Greeks go to midnight mass, then go home and have a big Christmas dinner! The main dish is usually pork or lamb and served with cheese and spinach. Christ Bread is always served as well. It’s a round sweet bread that is decorated with what the family does for a living. For example, if the father is a fisherman, then the bread will have fish decorations. Some other typical Greek Christmas foods are:
This is a shortbread made from flour, butter and toasted crushed almonds and covered with confectioner’s sugar.
This cake is often associated with St. Basil’s Day, which is January 1. What makes this cake special is a coin or trinket that is hidden in the cake. Whoever finds the coin will have good luck in the coming year.
Baklava is a sweet pastry made with phyllo pastry, chopped nuts, and honey. It is from the Trace region of Greece.
Melomakarona is an egg-shaped cake that must be served at Christmas time. This cake is made of flour, olive oil and honey.
If you are traveling during this winter season, call us for your travel medical insurance. One of our professional international insurance agents, https://www.gninsurance.com/meet-team-good-neighbor-insurance/, will be glad to serve you. Or call us at 480-633-9500 or our toll free number at 866-636-9100. We have an email of in case you want to email us your request. Many of our agents and staff have lived overseas for many years. In fact the founder of Good Neighbor Insurance (GNI) lived overseas for 32 years in Indonesia. His sons were born and raised in Indonesia for 19 years until he graduated from high school in Jakarta (Jakarta International School), Indonesia.