Christmas in Greece

Christmas Time


-In Greece, Christmas trees are not always commonly used, most homes put a shallow wooden bowl containing a piece of wire that is suspended across the rim. Hanging from that piece of wire is a wooden cross in wrapped in basil.

-St. Nicholas is an important patron saint of sailors in Greece. It is said that "his clothes are drenched with brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his face is covered with perspiration because he has been working hard against the waves to reach sinking ships and rescue them from the angry sea." Without a St. Nicholas icon, Greek ships never leave port.

-In Greece, they fast for 40 days and then have a big Christmas feast. At this feast, they usually eat pig and christopsomo "Christ Bread".


--Christopsomo: Greek christmas Bread

8 cups of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 tablespoons of dry yeast

1 cup of warm water (105F, 40C)

1 cup of warm red wine

1/2 cup of olive oil

1/4 cup of orange juice

1/4 cup of brandy

grated peel of 2 oranges

1 cup of sugar

1 1/2 cups of raisins

1 1/2 cups of walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup of pine nuts

1 tablespoon of grated gum mastic or 1 tablespoon of crushed anise seed

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the Topping:


2 whole walnuts in shells

Sesame seeds

--Walnut Cake - Karidopita

7 eggs

1-cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

2 cups sugar

2 tbsp. brandy or cognac

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

3 1/2 cups self-rising flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground (plus more for topping if desired)

For the syrup:

2 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups water

1 small piece cinnamon stick

Juice of 1/2 lemon (strained)


On Christmas Eve, young children will knock on doors and enter shops shouting “na ta poume” which means should we say it? Almost everyone says yes, they then sing their carols; As they finish they are wished a Merry Christmas and sometimes given a Christmas biscuit but usually they are given coins.

Gift Giving

Typically, presents are exchanged on December 6th which is the Feast of St. Nicholas and on January 1st which is St. Basil's day.

Agios Vassillis is said to be the "Santa Clause of Greece". Although he is very similar to our Santa in the fact that he leaves presents under the tree, he comes from Caesarea not from Northern Europe. Greeks often exchange gifts on New Years Eve as well.

Weather Conditions

Greece has a Mediterranean climate which makes for very hot summers and quite cold, rainy winters.

  • Snow is not uncommon but is mainly in the northern part of Greece
  • The southern parts of Greece have milder winters and are unlikely to have snow
  • This year the weather report in Athens, Greece for Christmas day is a 40% chance of light showers, a high of 58 degrees and a low of 50 degrees
  • Religious Activities

    -The cross most families put out during Christmas contains religious significance only during the Christmas season. The bowl contains a small amount of water to keep the basil fresh. Once a day a family member dips the cross into holy water and uses it to sprinkle water throughout the house. This is believed to keep "Killantzaroi" away, which are goblins or spirits who can only appear during the time period from Christmas to Epiphany. These goblins or spirits are said to come through the chimneys and do many mischievous activities.

    -On January 1st, they celebrate St. Basil's Day or Epiphany, which is a celebration of Jesus' baptism. This day is known as the "renewal of water." During this day priests will bless small crosses and throw them in bodies of water; young men jump in after them and the first to find it will have good luck the coming year.

    Interesting Facts

    • X-mas is abbreviation for Christmas that comes from Greek origin because the word Christ in Greek is Xristos.
    • Easter is considered much more significant than Christmas
    • Christmas Eve is the main day for the children. They prepare to go out and sing their carols
    • The Christmas Season doesn't officially end until January 6th
    • Each Christmas color in Greece has a significant meaning: Green- everlasting life, Red-blood line of Christ, Blue- the sky from which the angels appeared, White- the purity of the virgin birth, Silver and gold- richness of God’s blessings

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