Traditions title

St. Nicholas  Icon

THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTMAS IN GREECE, one of the biggest holidays here, go back to the time of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, who was fighting the storms and mighty waves to reach sinking ships and rescue drowning men from the deep sea. Like their ancestors, many Greeks still decorate miniature boats instead of trees.

NO GREEK CHRISTMAS season would be complete without the symbolic herb basil, or
"vassiliko", and most Greek houses take a sprig of basil wrapped around a small wooden cross and suspend it over a bowl of water. It is sayd that this is the period when the bad spirits, called "killantzaroi" can torment humans. Once a day, a family member dips the cross and basil into the water and uses it to sprinkle some drops in each room of the house, to keep these nasty creatures away.
Decorated  Christmas Boat

Syntagma Square
Town Hall
ON CHRISTMAS EVE, the children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing Christmas carols, called "kalanda".They accompany the songs using small metal triangles, named "trigona". Usually, in appreciation, the children are given sweets or some money, called "hadziliki". In Greek homes lamb and pork are roasted in ovens and on almost every table are loaves of sweet bread, "hristopsomo", or Christ bread, pies, wine, delicious sweets like "kourabiedes", "melomakarona" and "baklava". The father crosses the "hristopsomo" and gives
a piece to everybody wishing them Merry Christmas and
"Hronia Polla". The Christmas tree, or "hristugenniatiko dendro" is decorated with colourful lights.


BASIL IS ASSOCIATED with St. Basil, or
Agios Vassilios, a founder of the Greek Orthodox Church, whose feast day is on 1st of January, the name day, or "onomastiki iorti", for anyone called Vassilios or Vassiliki. The Greek word for basil means royal and was believed that only the king himself should harvest this herb, with the use of a golden sickle. The gifts are exchanged on 1st January. On St. Basil's day is baked a cake, called "vassilopita", which conceals a token. The tradition says that the cake must be divided very carefully, like a ceremony, the Saint gets the first piece, then the pieces go to members of the family, accordind to the age.

Merry Christmas -"Kala Hristougenna!"
Happy New Year -"Eftihismenos o Kenourios Hronos"


Back to the top
Syntagma Square Town Hall Christmas in Athens Photo Gallery Easter Christmas in Athens Hristopsomo Vassilopita Christmas in Athens Photo Gallery Christmas in Athens