Christmas Traditions in Greece and other Pagan stories
Greece is not be particularly known as being big in Christmas traditions and celebrations. I'm certain you'd be surprised to find out, however, that some of these Christmas traditions in Greece you didn't even know existed.
Christmas celebrations can begin as early as December 6th, (or as late for some countries).
This is officially St. Nicholas Day in Greece and it is one of the biggest yearly celebrations. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of the sailors, and he is known as the protector of the seas. In some areas of Greece, St. Nicholas has a reputation for 'secret gift giving' as well. In the north of Greece mainly, people leave their shoes outside so the Saint can drop coins inside. It is no surprise that he built a reputation and become the model for "Santa Claus".
Actual Christmas celebrations in Greece start about the 20th of December. Decorations will start as early as the end of November (especially in the cities). The streets are filled with people getting their festive shopping done. Christmas Carols are sung from just about everywhere. Decorations are dazzling and plentiful, playing their part in the Christmas spirit. One piece of decor that may slightly perplex you is the colourful Christmas boat you will see either next to trees or replacing the Christmas tree altogether. This tradition is deeply rooted to St. Nicholas and an attribute to him as the Protector of our Seas.
Christmas Carols - "Kalanda"
On Christmas Eve, whole neighbourhoods transform into Christmas choir auditoriums, with many people, (usually children), singing the Carols. 'Kalanda' singing is a tradition that is vivid childhood memory as well. We would go around in neighbourhoods, from house to house and sing the "Kalanda" away. Most times, this would involve playing an instrument too. These would either be guitars, accordions, keyboards, bouzouki or small triangles. If we sang well, we would be rewarded with lots of Christmas treats. This included traditional sweets such as dried figs, walnuts and other small tokens of appreciation. If it was a relative we were visiting or the house of good friends they would also stuff our pockets with coins so that we could buy our favourite toys. Needless to say, it was a day we looked forward as kids.
Popular Pagan traditions in Greece
Although Christmas trees and brightly lit up boat replicas are widely used as the ultimate Christmas decoration, there are other, more ancient rituals and traditions as well. They can be traced back through the millennia and the pre-Christian era in Greece.
One such tradition is to keep the "Kalikantzari" away from homes. These creatures are small Goblins, meant to create havoc everywhere they go. They are underground dwellers, (ascending from Middle-earth), and reach people's homes through chimneys. They are especially active for twelve days, from Christmas day to Epiphany day, (6th of January). Their speciality is to do all sorts of naughty things, such as spoiling food and milk, spreading the fireplace ashes around the house, and other such rascal behaviours.
To prevent them from entering the house, households would keep a bowl of water, blessed from the local priest. They would use fresh Basil and sprinkle that water around the house. This way, it was believed, they'd keep the evil spirits and goblins away. Having a fire going throughout this 12 day period is also a way of keeping them slide down the chimneys.
Traditional Christmas Sweets
We really take pride in our Christmas sweets and treats that are made during the Christmas season. Each region takes pride in their own that are only made during Christmas.
Some of the sweets that you will find just about everywhere in Greece are: