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Christmas in Greece : Christougena in Greece

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Christmas in Greece

Greece officially the Hellenic Republic is a country in Southeast Europe. Greece is strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa and has land borders with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the northeast. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of mainland Greece, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Capital and largest city of this country is Athens.

In Greece St. Nicholas is important as the patron saint of sailors. According to Greek tradition, 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. Greek ships never leave port without some sort of St. Nicholas icon on board.

On Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing ‘kalanda’ (carols) in the streets. They play drums and triangles as they sing. They go from house to house and are given dried figs, almonds, walnuts and lots of sweets or sometimes small gifts.

Christmas in Greece

Christmas trees are not commonly used in Greece. In almost every home the main symbol of the season is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. A small amount of water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day, a family member, usually the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the Killantzaroi/bad spirits away from the house. The Killantzaroi are meant to appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany. They are supposed to come from the middle of the earth and get into people’s house through the chimney. Having a fire burning through the twelve days of Christmas is also meant to keep the Killantzaroi away.

In most Greek homes an evergreen tree is decorated with tinsel and a star placed on top. In Aristotelous Square in the city of Thessaloniki a huge Christmas Tree. Gifts are exchanged on January 1st, St Basil’s Day.

Going to a Midnight Mass Service is very important for most Greeks. After the service people can go home and end their Advent fast.

After 40 days of fasting, the Christmas feast is looked forward to with great anticipation by adults and children alike. The main Christmas meal is often Lamb or pork, roasted in an oven or over an open spit. It’s often served with a spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables. Other Christmas and new year foods include ‘Baklava’ (sweet pastry), Kataifi (pastry), Theeples (a kind of fried pastry). A traditional table decoration are loaves of ‘christopsomo’ (Christ bread), kourambiethes, a Greek nut cookie.

In Greece, presents are often brought to children by Aghios Vassilis / Άγιος Βασίλης (Saint Basil) on the 1st January.

People in Greece also celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January. In the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus’s baptism when he was a man. It’s also known as ‘The Blessing of the Waters’. There are many events throughout the country where young men dive into really cold lakes, rivers and the sea to try to be first to get a cross which has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. Whoever gets the cross first is meant to have good luck during the coming year. Epiphany festivals also include blessings of boats & ships, music, dancing and lots of food.

In Greek, Christmas is known as Christougenna (Χριστούγεννα).

In Greek Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Kala Christougenna’ (Καλά Χριστούγεννα).

We wish all readers Merry Christmas 2013 & Prosperous New Year 2014 !!!

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