Christmas Caroling in Greece

Christmas in Greece is a very beautiful season. Linking three holidays, the Christmas season is joyous and quite long. Caroling is one of the highlights.

The Long Holiday Season in Greece

The Holiday mood begins truly in early December, as people decorate their homes and apartments, and municipalities put out many lights and trees. Tree-lighting ceremonies and concerts are among the many public festivities. There are also always manger scenes beside the trees, sometimes very elaborate ones. Families will always spend an evening or two strolling among the lights, and there are often activities for children, and Christmas markets.

While Christmas is the focus of the holiday season in many other countries, in Greece it is the first of three holidays.

Where to Celebrate Christmas in Greece

Athens is particularly glorious at Christmas, filled with twinkling lights. Thessaloniki’s festivities are centered in the main square which opens onto the seaside. Many towns and cities also have a boat decorated with lights- this is a uniquely Greek holiday decoration. And every town will now be at its loveliest – Greece is filled with romantic, snow-kissed mountain villages.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

While there is all of the festivity, the lights and decorations, the celebration of friends, the buying of seasonal gifts and the making of special treats, the focus of Christmas truly is on the birth of the baby Jesus, not on the exchange of gifts. While the day before Christmas- Christmas Eve day- is not an official holiday (all the stores are open and very busy) – this is the day the holidays begin in earnest, for this is the day that the carolers take to the streets.

Greek caroling is quite special. For one thing, it is limited to one single carol related specifically to the holiday. Second, it is sung by groups of children going from house to house (almost always in exchange for a small gift of money.)

The Santa Claus tradition in Greece that many people associate with Christmas is in Greece the tradition of Agios Vasilis – Saint Basil. This jolly, bearded, red-cloaked and generous figure appears not at Christmas, but at New Years. This leaves Christmas as a primarily religious holiday, which is quite refreshing. The most devout people even have a religious fast before Christmas, much as one prepares for Easter with the lenten fast. The season begins with reflection.

New Year’s Eve in Greece – A Combination of Customs

New Years in Greece is something like a blend of Christmas customs in other countries – the Santa Claus figure, the gifts – plus the New Years’ customs shared by much of the world. In this nation with a strong family culture, New Years begins with a large family dinner. Then there are fireworks greeting the strike of midnight, festivities lasting through the wee hours. Then the morning of the first of January is like Christmas morning everywhere else- a joyous exchange of gifts and good wishes. Like Christmas, New Year’s Eve also has its own special carol.

The Epiphany

The very first days of the New Year are peaceful ones, with visits of family and friends, long walks by the seaside or in the mountains, or casual get-togethers in town. Schools are not yet reopened, and many people are still on holiday, because the season is not yet over.

The finale of the winter holidays in Greece is Epiphany, the blessing of the waters. It is a name day also for many Greeks whose name is related to light or sky. After watching the faithful dive into the water and swim for the cross, everyone collects holy blessed water for their homes, and receives a blessing from the priest.

Winter Holidays in Greece

Wherever you are in Greece, you will also find that there are regional traditions that are unique to certain areas. These colorful and meaningful customs and symbolic dishes – have evolved over centuries. One of the customs that transcends all the regions of Greece though is caroling.

With our best wishes, we would like to share with you the Christmas carol, here below.

Have you ever been for Winter Holidays in Greece?

The Christmas Carol of Greece

Good day to you!

If this is your will,

I would like to sing of Christ’s holy birth

Christ has been born today in the town of Bethlehem;

The heavens rejoice, all of nature is happy.

Inside the cave (He) is being born in a manger for horses,

the King of all the universe,

the Creator of everything.

A crowd of angels are singing, “Hosanna in excelsis”,

And holy is the faith of the shepherds.

From Persia three magi arrive with their gifts,

a bright star shows them the way without any delay.

They arrived in Jerusalem, and asked with fervor where Christ is born,

so that they may find him.

In the home where we are,

may no stones or walls ever crack and fall apart

and may you live a thousand years!

Best wishes and may we meet again next year!