Old and New Christmas Traditions in Greece



Greek Christmas TraditionsOne of the most important celebrations in the Christian calendar is the annual commemoration of the birth of Christ. Each country has bears unique traditions. However, the atmosphere is the same everywhere and Christmas is always full of joy and happiness. The Christmas holidays are dedicated to children and give adults the opportunity to become children again.

Each region of Greece has a different history, along with different myths and beliefs. One of the strangest and most hilarious traditions is that of “Kalikantzaroi” (goblins). According to the myth, the Kalikantzaroi dwell underground but come to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas between December 25 and January 6. Their purpose is to make things as difficult as they can for everyone. There is no standard appearance of the Kallikantzaroi, though one common feature is that they are extremely ugly. They are depicted variously, with animal parts, hairy bodies, horses legs, or the tusks of a boar, sometimes enormous. Others portray them as small humans who smell horribly, while some consider them to be tall, black and hairy. The kalikantzaroi are creatures of the night. There are many ways to protect oneself during the days when Kalikantzaroi are on the loose. They are apparently afraid of fire, light and the symbol of the cross. Another way to keep them away from your home is to leave a fire burning in the fireplace. On the Epiphany (January 6), they go underground in order to continue their sawing. Although they see that the World Tree has healed itself, so they have to start working all over again. According to the legend this happens every year.

The most famous Christmas tradition is the tree. Since the 20th century it has become common in many city centers and stores. Greeks traditionally used to decorate their homes with ships, although we have adopted the German custom of decorating a tree. The ship symbolizes separation and is connected with the way that Greek expatriates left their homes, their families and their country. On the other hand, the tree unites people because we sit around it and talk. Moreover the tree symbolizes the source of life, inspiration, creation. The roots of the tree symbolize our past experiences, the foundations which keep us alive and allow us to continue in the battle for survival.

During the last few decades the European Christmas Markets have also appeared in Greece in the form of “Christmas Villages.” The first and most popular is the “Oniroupoli” (the town of dreams) in Drama, which is the Christmas capital of Greece. For more than a month, the center of Drama is transformed into a Christmas village, bringing joy to children and adults alike. The fairy-tales have an important place, and every year they are presented with different “colors.” A new entry in the Greek Christmas market is the “Mill of Elves” in Trikala, Central Greece. The Mill gives children and adults the opportunity to explore along with elves, fairies, Scrooge McDuck and Santa, the most beautiful Christmas village.