How is Christmas celebrated in Santorini? - Santorini Yachting Club
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How is Christmas celebrated in Santorini?

How is Christmas celebrated in Santorini?
06 Dec 2022

Christmas is celebrated in unique ways in Santorini. Illuminated boats, roasted pork dishes, and honey cookies are all staples of the holiday festivities. Read on to learn more about the fascinating Greek Christmas traditions.

Christmas in Santorini

Santorini is a stunning destination over the summer but continues to amaze us during the chillier months as well. In Greece, in general, there are many unique religious traditions taking place at this time of the year. One of the oldest customs which remained practically unchanged is singing Greek Christmas carols (kalanta). The children of the villages ring the bell of each house to sing enchanting carols accompanied by guitar or harmonica. They receive money or cookies for their performance. The difference between this Greek tradition and other nations’ caroling practices is that carols are sung not only on Christmas Eve but also on New Year’s Eve and the day of Epiphany. 

Another thing that Greeks do differently is exchange gifts. Greek children anticipate the arrival of St. Basil (Agios Vasilis) instead of Santa Claus. Traditionally, presents were given on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas Day, however, this tradition seems to fade in recent years.

greek kalarta

Festive decorations 

The residents of Santorini start the Christmas preparation early. It is not unusual that they begin decorating their homes already in mid-November. Although Christmas trees have gained huge popularity in the past century, it is still considered a relatively new addition to Greek Christmas decorations. The traditional way was displaying illuminated sailboats decorated with festive lights, ribbons, boughs of pine and holly. The origin of this tradition stems from the fact that most of the men on the islands were sailors. According to the folk story, women of the Greeks islands spent their days worrying about their fathers, husbands, and sons being away on the rough winter sea. Upon spotting their loved one’s ship returning to the harbor, the women would joyfully rush home to celebrate by decorating small wooden boats as a welcome to the weary seafarers.

The holiday menu

As with any Greek tradition, the essential element of any festive activities will include a joyful family gathering and an elaborately prepared dining table packed with mouthwatering dishes. The Greek Christmas dinner is no different from any everyday dinner in the sense that it also starts with a selection of meze (small dishes served as appetizers). The second dish served is usually chicken soup with an egg-lemon source called avgolemono, which is followed by stuffed cabbage leaves (yiaprakia) or roasted pork or lamb. Two of the most popular desserts made during the holiday season are melomakarona and kourabiethes. Needless to say, these honey-flavored, melt-in-your-mouth cookies are everyone’s favorite from children to adults alike. When it comes to traditional Greek Christmas food, Christ bread (Christopsomo) should not be missed out on either. This festive bread is a round, aromatic, savory pastry that is ceremonially kneaded, often with a small prayer. This bread is decorated, usually with a big cross and flowers or birds and ribbons made of the same dough.

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