You will discover a rather unusual sight if you ever come to Greece around Christmas time. You will see beautiful little Christmas lights, decorating all major streets, parks and central squares. Palm trees that symbolise summer for many of us, are literally glowing in the dark and boats are decorated with lots of love and care.
Discover below some of the magical traditions that you will only find in Greece!
1. Decorated “Karavaki” – Boat
In almost every household you will find a beautifully decorated boat at Christmastime. This tradition of the “karavaki”, which means “small boat”, is an old tradition that shows how deeply proud Greeks are of their large number of intrepid captains and sailors and which have become a very symbol of national identity. Brave Greek sailors would spend the cold winters at sea, battling stormy seas in order to catch the much-needed fish. Their wives were at home on the islands, waiting with joyful expectations to welcome them home around Christmas time. Thus, the decoration of the “karavaki” became a symbol of honoring the brave seamen and celebrating their return.
2. Melomakarona and Kourabiedes
The two most popular sweets one must try around Christmas and New Years’ time are the delicious Melomakarona and Kourabiedes.
Melomakarona are sticky-sweet cookies that are soaked in honey with a spicy hint of cloves and diples and are sprinkled with chopped walnuts and honey.
Kourabiedes are Greek Chistmas Cookies which are filled with almonds and drenched in powdered sugar. Yummy!
3. “Kalanda” - Christmas Carolers
Between Christmas and New Years' Eve, kids go from door to door in their neighborhood, playing the triangle and singing traditional Greek songs, known as “Kalanda”. The songs are thought to bless your house for the new year and it is considered to be good luck if a caroler visits you. Therefore, it is customary to reward the children with money when they come to your door.
4. Santa Claus /Saint Vassilis comes late every year
Greek children impatiently await New Years' Day instead of the 25th of December, as this is the date on which Saint Vassilis visits and delivers the gifts. So, Saint Vassilis is practically known as Greece’s Santa Claus.
5. Card Games
New Years’ Day is considered a day of good fortune. Thus, it is the custom to play cards on New Year’s Eve, while waiting for midnight and the change of the year. Many Greeks play within their family, however nowadays many young people go out to casinos to partake in this ancient tradition.
6. Vasilopita & the coin of good fortune
Every New Year, Greeks bake an orange flavored pound cake, called Vasilopita. Inside the cake, they hide a coin. On New Year’s day the cake is sliced up and served in a very specific way. The first slice goes to Jesus. The second slice goes to the house. The rest of the slices then go to the family. It is very common to even cut slices of cake for family members who are not present. The person who receives the slice with the coin is believed to be the lucky one for the year. The tradition of cutting the Vasilipita is so deeply rooted that a Vassilopita is cut in families, friend’s houses and even at work-places.
7. Pomegranate Smashing
The pomegranate fruit is considered to be a sign of prosperity, fertility, and regeneration since ancient times. It is therefore custom to hang a pomegranate above the main entrance of a house. In some villages, people actually get the fruit blessed at their local church and then smash it against their house door for extra luck.
As you may see above, Greece has wonderful traditions all year around and it is definitely worth a visit even in winter times.
We wish you a Happy New Year with lots of happiness, love and winds in your sail!
Your Cavo Yachting Team