5 Little-Known Greek Christmas Traditions

December 9th, 2019

Greece Christmas

While you might be familiar with decorated trees and Rudolph, Christmas in Greece can look a little different. Here are five common traditions practiced in Greece throughout the holiday season!

Christmas Boats and Trees

Although Christmas trees are extremely popular in the States, both Christmas trees and boats can be found in the villages of the Greek islands. Throughout the country’s history, Greek wives and children would decorate wooden boats to welcome their husbands and sons back from the sea, safe from harm. Today, the tradition still stands.

Children Sing Kalanta

On Christmas Eve, it’s common in Greece for children to flock from home to home in their neighborhoods to sing Greek Christmas carols, or “kalanta.” After wishing their neighbors happy holidays, the children are usually rewarded with sweets, dried fruits and small change. The tradition is basically the Greek version of North American Christmas caroling.

Cookies Become Their Own Food Group

From baklava to rizogalo, if you’ve ever tried a sweet treat at The Simple Greek, then you should be familiar with the Greeks’ love for delicious desserts. And during the Christmas season, Greeks pull out all the baking stops, making traditional favorites like almond kourabiedes and soft melomakarona, dipped in syrup.

Gifts Aren’t Exchanged on Christmas

Since the Christmas season lasts from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany on January 6, most Greeks will wait until St. Basil Day on January 1 to exchange gifts – although many families now also give gifts on Christmas Day.

Kallikantzari Tease Villages

Greek folk tradition has it that little mischievous kallikantzari, hobgoblins in English, would rise from underground to wreak havoc during the 12 days of Christmas. To make them disappear, priests would (and still do) travel to homes on the day of the Epiphany, January 6, and bless them with holy water.

Greece is filled with unique traditions centered around history, community and (our favorite) food. This Christmas season, enjoy a little bit of Greek tradition from the comfort of your own town, with a visit or two to your local Simple Greek! Find a location near you.