The decorations include a real or plastic Christmas tree. In the past fishermen would decorate their fishing boats in the Christmas spirit. So, it is customary, especially in areas by the sea, to decorate a replica of a boat instead of a tree.
On Christmas Eve, children go door to door singing carols. In the past they were given sweets, nowadays money as well. Most children go in groups of 3 or 4. Younger ones always join the older siblings. The children want to begin ringing doorbells early in the morning. I was already at 7am with my friends at doorsteps. J If you are there early, you get the best treats. At lunch time adults are tired of answering the door. Then you move on relatives hoping for extra pocket money and a snack.
A 90’s Greek comedy show gave some ideas on altering the melody of the carols to fit all those answering the door.
The Greek Santa is called Agios Vasilis. He doesn’t visit the homes on the Christmas days instead he brings the gifts on New Year’s Eve.
The story tells that while he was a bishop of Kesaria, now called Kayseri in Turkey, a general wanted to rob the city. The bishop collected gold and jewellery in order to buy the city’s freedom. But as a miracle the general left and the bishop was left with the treasures. He then decided to hide everything into bread and distribute it to the citizens. This act became a tradition that has lasted until today.
Religious or not, all Greeks bake a sweet bread with one coin inside. After a big feast with the whole family, on midnight of New Year’s Eve the bread is cut into pieces, one for each family member. The one to get the coin will have good luck during the new year.
Read more about Greek flavours for Christmas tomorrow!