Greece is a summer paradise for tourists from all over the world. With its azure skies, sandy alabaster beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush foliage dotting the countryside, it certainly exudes a storybook atmosphere. However, Greece offers a worthwhile experience during the colder months as well, when visitors can marvel at the snow-dusted mountaintops, smoke billowing from village chimneys, the delightful aroma of Christmas delicacies in the air, and the distinct Christmas customs unique to each region of the Greek Islands. While it may not be a popular Christmas destination, Greece has plenty to offer during the festivities. So, here’s why spending Christmas in Greece is a great idea.
Greek Christmas Traditions: An Unforgettable Experience
Traditions and customs hold immense significance in the daily lives of Greeks. The Greeks believe in the existence of mischievous goblins or kallikantzaroi, who make their appearance during the 12-day Christmas celebrations, up until Epiphany on January 6th. These creatures are said to enter homes through chimneys. To deter their entry, the Greeks burn a Yule log, a large log that is lit and kept burning throughout the entirety of the 12-day Christmas period. On Epiphany, the local priest sprinkles blessed water, symbolically closing the doors to the kallikantzaroi until the following year. Epiphany is celebrated with the same warmth as Christmas, with young men braving the icy waters of Greece to retrieve the cross thrown by the priest. The one who retrieves it is believed to be blessed with good luck for the rest of the year.
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The Enchanting Christmas Decorations: Illuminating the Streets
Greek Christmas embraces traditional holiday customs, opting for a less Westernized style of decoration. Instead of shiny, vibrant baubles and lights hanging from Christmas trees, traditional Greeks adorn a cross with a sprig of basil leaves. A shallow bowl is attached to the cross, filled with water to keep the basil fresh. A family member then sprinkles water from the bowl throughout the house once a day, believed to ward off evil spirits. Furthermore, Greeks hang pomegranates and kremmeda over their front doors. These dried fruits are then thrown on the ground and stomped on until they break, symbolizing prosperity and good fortune as they enter the house.
Christmas In Athens: A Western Influence
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The Syntagma square in Athens and Aristotelous square in Thessaloniki host immense Christmas trees and displays like karavakia or Christmas ships adorned in blue and white lights in the streets. Events such as outdoor skating, shopping, music, and theatre festivals are arranged. One can relax in the peaceful ambiance while indulging in street performances, delectable food stalls, or dancing. It is common to witness young children singing kalanda or Christmas carols along the streets, playing drums and triangle, and carrying boats decorated with nuts in line with their Greek tradition. The New Year’s festivities include magnificent fireworks display.
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Christmas Delicacies: Relish The Scrumptious Treats
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In Greece, Christmas holidays, like in any other country, revolve around indulging in feasts with loved ones. The traditional Greek Christmas cuisine primarily consists of roasted lamb or pork served with a pie made of spinach and cheese, accompanied by salads and vegetables on the side. Over time, Greeks have also included turkey in their Christmas meals. Greeks prepare numerous sweet filo pastry dishes such as baklava, kataifi, and theeples. Spiced cookies like melomakarona and freshly baked butter cookies known as kourabiedes are highly popular during Christmas and New Year. Additionally, a traditional Christmas table is adorned with christopsomos (sweet bread) topped with a cross sign, which is savored on Christmas Day. Vasilopita, or the St. Basil’s pie, is consumed on New Year’s Day and is baked with a hidden coin inside. The person who discovers the coin is believed to have good luck throughout the year.
Weather In Greece During Christmas: Embrace the Tranquility
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The climate in Greece during the Christmas season varies across different regions of the islands. In the mainland, the weather is typically cold with overcast skies, precipitation, and snowfall in the mountains. The average temperature is around 13oC. However, the weather on the islands varies and is notably milder compared to the mainland. The larger islands, like Crete, experience sunny but windy conditions. Island hopping may be limited during this time, but one can still travel to Crete. The temperature here is about 15-17oC, and the people of Crete have their own Christmas tradition. The Cretans participate in a Santa run, where individuals dress up as Santa Claus and run for a charitable cause.
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How to Enjoy Christmas in Greece in 2022?
Here is a compilation of activities to partake in while celebrating Christmas in Greece with your loved ones. Continue scrolling to discover more!
One of the most popular skiing destinations is Mount Parnassos near Arachova. Located at an elevation of 980 meters, this town boasts numerous stunning winter resorts and is often referred to as the “winter Mykonos.” The shops and bars in Arachova often stay open until late at night.
2. Evzones Show
The Greek Presidential guard, known as the Evzones, performs a captivating changing of the guard ceremony at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is a must-see spectacle. The guard change takes place hourly in front of the parliament building at Syntagma Square.
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3. Ancient Ruins of Greece
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With fewer vacationers obstructing the sight of the ancient constructions, Christmas holidays in Greece are the optimal moment to accumulate on the undisturbed atmosphere around the remains.
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With delectable food stalls to indulge in, these Christmas bazaars offer ample choices for shopping. Many local craftsmen come together during Christmas to exhibit their articles such as handcrafted soaps, jewelry, and many more. These bazaars are the ideal place to spend money on presents for loved ones.
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5. Nightlife In Greece
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Christmas in cities are somewhat distinct from the customary Christmas in Greece. The streets offer carousels, music, and theater performances. The bars and taverns remain open until late at night and showcase laika (traditional Greek music) or bouzouki live music. Enjoy a glass of Greek wine while dancing to the music.
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Greece unquestionably provides an unparalleled experience throughout the winter days. Whether it’s the cuisine, customs, traditions, or a tranquil ambience, if someone is seeking a unique way to spend their holidays this Christmas, they should undoubtedly journey to Greece this Christmas with TravelTriangle.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas In Greece
Is December a suitable time to visit Greece?
Yes, December is an appropriate time to visit Greece.
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