There are many Christmas customs. Every area of Greece has
different ones, but there are basics that everybody follows and believes. Even though the
Christmas tree is in almost every household in Greece, please note that it is not a
Christmas Carols - ΚάλανταAt dawn on Christmas Eve, the children in groups go from door to door to sing the Kalada. They knock on the door and say : "Να τα πούμε, να τα πούμε? Can we say them, can we say them? Meaning the carols. The owner answers them yes, and they start singing : "καλήν εσπέραν άρχοντες αν είν' ο ορισμός σας, Χριστού τη θεία γέννηση να πω στ' αρχοντικό σας..." The beginning of the song greets the owner of the house and asks them if they could tell the story about the holy birth of Christ. Other kids hold the triangle and hit it with rhythm, and others hold a paper ship. This is going on until every house has heard the Kalada.
The Christmas Bread - Το ΧριστόψωμοThe traditional Christmas bread has a cross and symbols of the family's occupation, on the top. The bread and the dinner table must be blessed. In many areas the father says a prayer holding the bread on top of a bottle of wine. After the prayer is over, all of the family grabs the bread holding it above the bottle and splits it saying "Hronia Pola = Many years". In other areas the bread is lifted three times in the air and they say a prayer. With the bread and the dinner table blessed the family starts their dinner.
The Goblins - Οι ΚαλλικάντζαροιAnother creation of the Greek imagination is the goblins (καλλικάντζαροι). For some, they look like people but they are very tall and ugly. For others they are short, have one eye or one leg, or even have red eyes. The goblins are not very smart...
They live under the earth. The story says that they can only come onto earth on Christmas and they can stay until the celebration of the Epiphany. They only appear at nighttime, to bother people, scare them and dance around them. They like to bother a lot, the elderly women.
Many believe that they come into the houses from the chimney and they make a mess. The most popular story though is the Earth's Tree. This is a big tree that holds the earth. The kallikantzari, trouble makers that they are, try all year long to cut it. But when Christmas arrives, foolish that they are, they forget this job and come on to earth to bother the people. When they can not stay on earth anymore, they return back under and find the tree whole again and they start over.
There are many ways to chase away the kallikantzari. The most popular one is that the homeowner can put a sifter outside of the house. The kallikantzari easily distracted as always, start counting the holes. One, two three..., and because they don't know how to count higher, they waste their time. The morning arrives and they have to go and because of this, their job is never done.
They are also afraid of fire and noises. Many homeowners throw salt on the fire and the crackling scares them away.
The Sweets - Τα ΓλυκάIn this holy celebration all the house wives bake traditional sweets and cookies. This season you will find in every house:
Melomakarona (μελομακάρονα), honey cookies.
Kourabiethes (κουραμπιέδες), cookies covered with powdered sugar.
Thiples (δίπλες), pastry with honey and walnut.
Loukoumathes (Λουκουμάδες), which in Greece are made all winter long. They are deep fried balls of dough that are dipped in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts.
And finally the Hristopsomo (Χριστόψωμο) which is bread with a cross and designs about the occupation of each family, on the top crust.