December Events & Festivals in Greece

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Christmas

Christmas (“Christouyenna” meaning “the birth of Christ” ), a time of joy and celebration, is one of the most important holidays for Greeks. On Christmas Eve, children traditionally sing Christmas carols known as “kalanta” from door to door in their neighborhood, armed with musical triangles and drums. This day also marks the beginning of many beloved traditions associated with this special Holiday Season including family gatherings and church services. The main decoration in family homes is the “Karavaki” – a wooden model boat with twinkling lights that is honoring the nautical tradition of Greece but is also a symbol of man’s new voyage in life, following the birth of Christ. You will also find illuminated boats in ports and marinas. Large cities like Athens and Thessaloniki light up beautiful Christmas boats in their public squares. People also decorate Christmas trees.

Christmas ship in Athens, Greece (Credit: Templar52, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons)

While the food varies between regions, the traditional Greek Christmas dish is pork roasted in an oven while turkey is starting to feature on some tables. When it comes to traditional Greek Christmas treats, there is a plethora of delicacies such as “melomakarona” (honey cookies topped with chopped walnuts), “kourabiedes” (buttery almond cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar), “diples” (fried pastry dough drizzled with honey syrup). A traditional table decoration are loaves of “Christopsomo” (Christ’s Bread), a special type of a round sweet, aromatic homemade bread. 

Celebrations for the Holiday Season start on December 25 and end on January 6 on Epiphany Day. The whole period is called Dodekaimero (12 days) as it lasts 12 days. Most Greeks don’t exchange gifts on Dec. 25 but wait until St. Basil Day on New Year’s Day (January 1). All around Greece, people celebrate the Christmas holiday with unique traditions centered around history, outdoor festivities, gatherings, and family dinners.