CHRISTMAS IN GREECE
St. Nicholas is important in Greece as the patron saint of sailors. According to Greek tradition,
his clothes are drenched with brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his face is covered
with perspiration because he has been working hard against the waves to reach sinking ships
and rescue them from the angry sea. Greek ships never leave port without some sort of St. Nicholas
icon on board.
On Christmas Eve small boys to the beating of drums and the tinkling of triangles usually sing carols.
They go from house to house and are given dried figs, almonds, walnuts and lots of sweets or
sometimes small gifts.
After 40 days of fasting, the Christmas feast is looked forward to with great anticipation
by adults and children alike. Pigs are slaughtered and on almost every table are loaves of
christopsomo or "Christ Bread". This bread is made in large sweet loaves of various shapes
and the crusts are engraved and decorated in some way that reflects the family's profession.
There is a tradition kallikantzeri, where the mischievous goblins appear from the earth during the
12 days of Christmas.
Priests sometimes go from house to house sprinkling holy water around to get rid of the bad spirits
who may be hiding in people's houses.
In most Greek homes an evergreen tree is decorated with tinsel and a star placed on top.
Gifts are exchanged on January 1st, St Basil's Day.
On Christmas Eve, groups of people gather around the holiday table. Figs, dried on rooftops are
served with the spicy golden Chrisopsomo bread.
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