This year, more than ever before, the Christmas season acts as a breather that will give us strength to deal with the hardships and marks the advent of hope for better days. Moments with our beloved ones, relaxing home activities, some music, movies, and tasty food, have really the power to lift our mood. So, in case you are looking for Christmas food ideas, or you are just curious about holiday traditions in the Mediterranean countries, grab a cup of hot chocolate and let’s dive in!
In Greece, the holiday season begins on Christmas Eve and ends on Epiphany, January 6th, so the celebrations typically last for 14 days. Although not so popular in the modern times, compared to some years ago, carols are an integral part of Greek Christmas traditions. On Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Epiphany, kids take their musical triangles and visit their neighbors’ houses to sing carols and get a small amount of money or a Christmas treat. Also, it is common for Greeks to decorate their homes with Poinsettia, the Christmas flower that they call “Alexandrino”, and pomegranate ornaments and charms, as pomegranate symbolizes good luck.
On Christmas day, Greek families and friends get together to eat pork or turkey along with other delicacies. New Year’s Day is associated with the fun tradition of cutting the “Vasilopita”, namely Saint Basil’s pie, that contains a coin. Whoever wins the coin, will enjoy a lucky year! Lastly, on Epiphany, or “Ton Photon”, there is the tradition of priests throwing a cross in the sea, river, or lake, and men getting to the water in order to catch it and have a blessed year.
When it comes to traditional treats, those are “Melomakarona”, “Kourabiedes”, “Diples”, and, although less popular, “Christopsomo”. Greeks’ favorites are Melomakarona and Kourabiedes, and it is common for them to declare being #teammelomakarona or #teamkourabiedes. Our suggestion? Eat both! Melomakarona are delicious honey cookies with olive oil, orange juice, flour, and nuts, whereas Kourabiedes are fluffy sugar-coated cookies with butter and nuts. Diples are crispy, folded sheets of dough, with honey, cinnamon, and walnuts. Lastly, Christopsomo, or Christ’s bread, is a baked bread that contains nuts and grains, is garnished with sesame, and has a cross in the center.