Greece is a summer paradise for tourists from around the world. With its clear blue skies, sandy white beaches, crystal waters and luscious greenery along the countryside, it sure gives a fairy-tale vibe.
However, Greece is worth a visit during the colder months if one wants to experience the snow-capped mountains, sugar-dusted treetops, smoke wafting from the village chimneys, the sweet smell of Christmas delicacies and unique Christmas traditions pertaining to each region of the Greek Islands. Though not a popular Christmas destination, Greece has much to offer during the festivities. So, here’s why one should spend this Christmas in Greece.
Christmas Traditions In Greece: A Unique Affair
Traditions and customs are a very crucial part of the everyday lives to Greeks. Greeks believe that goblins/bad spirits or kallikantzaroi as they call them, appear during the 12- day celebrations of Christmas until the day they observe Epiphany which generally falls on January 6th. They are believed to enter the house through chimneys. Hence, the Greeks burn the Yule log, which is nothing but a huge log set that is burned all through the 12- day period of Christmas. On the Epiphany, the sprinkle of the blessed waters by the local priest closes the doors for the visit of the kallikantzaroi until next year. Epiphany is celebrated with equal warmth as Christmas where young men swim through the cold waters of Greece to retrieve the cross that the priest had threw into the waters. Whoever retrieves it is believed to enjoy good luck for the rest of the year.
The Christmas Displays: Lightens Up The Streets
Greek Christmas is a traditional holiday and thus not much of western style of decorations can be seen around in the houses. Instead of the shiny bright ornaments and lights dangling from the Christmas trees, traditional Greeks dangle a cross covered with a sprig of basil leaves. A shallow bowl is attached to it with some water to keep the basil fresh and a member from the family sprinkles water from that bowl all around the house once a day to drive away bad spirits. Apart from this, Greeks hang pomegranate and kremmeda over the front door of their homes. The dried fruit is then thrown on the ground and stomp their foot on it until it breaks and then enter the house which signifies prosperity and good luck.
Christmas In Athens: A Western Influence
The Syntagma square in Athens and Aristotelous square in Thessaloniki host huge Christmas trees and displays like karavakia or Christmas ships adorned in blue and white lights in the streets and events like outdoor skating, shopping,music and theatre festivals are organised. One can unwind in the relaxing atmosphere here enjoying the street performances, delicious food stalls or dancing. One often finds young children singing kalanda or Christmas carols along the streets whilst playing the drums, triangle and carrying boats decorated with nuts as part of their Greek tradition. Fireworks display can be observed during the New Year’s.
Christmas Delicacies: Savour The Delicious Treats
Christmas holidays in Greece like any other country is all about feasting with the loved ones. The traditional Greek Christmas food mainly consists of roast lamb or pork served with a spinach and cheese pie and salads/vegetables on the side. Over the years, Greeks have included turkey in their Christmas meal. The Greeks bake a lot of sweet filo pastry dishes like baklava, kataifi and theeples. Spiced cookies like melomakarona and fresh butter cookies called kourabiedes are very popular during the Christmas and the New Year. Apart from these, a traditional Christmas table is decorated with christopsomos (sweet bread) which are laced with a cross sign on the top and is eaten on Christmas Day. Vasilopita or the St. Basil’s pie is eaten on the New Year’s Day and is baked with a coin inside and whoever finds it first is believed to have good luck all throughout the year.
Weather In Greece During Christmas: Enjoy In The Serenity
Weather in Greece on Christmas varies within regions of the islands. The mainland weather is generally cold with cloudy sky, rain and snow in the mountains. The average temperature is about 13oC. However, the island weather varies and is noticeably warmer than the mainland. The larger islands like Crete are quite sunny but windy. Island hopping is limited during these seasons but can travel to Crete. The weather here about 15-17oC and the people of Crete have their own Christmas tradition. The Cretans takes part in Santa run where people dress up like Santa Claus and run for charity.
How To Spend Christmas In Greece In 2021?
Here is the list of things to do in Greece while you are celebrating Christmas with your friends and family. Keep scrolling down to know more!
The most popular snow centre is in mount Parnassos near Arachova. Arachova is set at an altitude of 980 metres, this town has many beautiful winter resorts and it is often referred to as the ‘winter Mykonos’. The shops and bars are often open till late in the night.
2. Evzones Show
The Greek’s Presidential guard is known as the Evzones and the changing of the guard ceremony at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a must watch. The change of guards happens every hour in front of the parliament building in the Syntagma square.
Suggested Read: 10 Castles In Greece That Testify The Country’s Glorious Past
3. Ancient Ruins Of Greece
With fewer tourists around blocking the view of the ancient structures, Christmas vacations in Greece are the best time to cache up on the undisturbed air around the ruins.
Suggested Read: 12 Best Resorts In Greece That Make You Feel Like Royalty
With delicious food carts to binge on, these Christmas markets offer ample choices for shopping. Many local artisans get together during Christmas to display their articles such as handmade soaps, jewellery and many more. These markets are the perfect place to spend money on gifts for the near and dear ones.
Suggested Read: 10 Hotels in Greece That Are A Treat For The Senses!
5. Nightlife In Greece
Christmas in cities are bit different from the traditional Christmas in Greece. The streets offer carousels, music and theatre performances. The bars and taverns are open till late in the night and present laika (traditional Greek music) or bouzouki live music. Enjoy a glass of Greek wine while grooving to the music.
Greece definitely offers a one of a kind experience during the winter days. Be it food, customs, traditions or a relaxing environment, if one is looking for a unique way of spending holidays this Christmas, one should definitely travel to Greece this Christmas with TravelTriangle.
Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas In Greece
A. Yes, December is a good time to go to Greece.
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