The Twelve Days of Blogmas! DAY 1: Greek Traditions

The Twelve Days of Blogmas! DAY 1: Greek Traditions

In the run up to Christmas there are lots of fun events and festive frivolities to enjoy, particularly at the weekends when you can take the kids out to see Santa or take the in-laws out to visit the Grinch. I’ve been brimming with blog ideas this month so I have decided to throw in an extra day of blogging for the month of December and bring you: 

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

I usually post twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays but from today I will be adding three more posts in the run up to Christmas which will be published on SUNDAY.

Not sure where to take the children next weekend? Look out for my Sunday review of Chessington Garden Centre’s Winter Wonderland and lots more over the next few weeks.

Today’s Blogmas post is all about:

GREEK CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

In Greece, while Christmas is celebrated on the 25th December, it is the custom to exchange gifts on New Year’s Day instead. Agios Vassilis (the Greek Santa Claus) visits on January 1st, as he is clearly far too busy stuffing his face with baklava on Christmas day and, like most Greeks, would never arrive on time anyway so comes a week later.

220px-Basil_of_Caesarea

December 6th is St. Nicholas Day so celebrations are also held then.

Any excuse for food!

Did you know that the Xmas abbreviation of Christmas actually comes from the Greek Xristos or Christos which of course means Christ??

On a serious note I get a bit twitchy when O Christmas Tree comes on the radio…it drudges up old memories of Greek school where we were forced to sing the Greek version while our evil eagle-eyed tutor looked on to make sure we were singing the correct words.

*Shudder*

The Greeks have slowly become more westernized in their celebrations of Christmas and the usual food will be served up (although turkey is generally replaced by lamb and pork), along with lots of sweet treats involving nuts and honey. In traditional Greek homes Christmas trees are not commonly used and instead the main symbol of the season is a wooden bowl of water with a basil leaf in it.

The basil is wrapped around a cross and dangled from a piece of wire suspended across the rim of the bowl. Each day the cross and basil are dipped into holy water which is then sprinkled all over the house to ward off evil spirits.

This water sprinkling continues for the twelve days of Christmas and on New Year’s Day all the water jugs in the house are emptied and re-filled with holy water. More food will be consumed on this day but the most important dish is Vasilopita – a cake which contains a hidden coin. Whoever finds the coin will receive good luck for the rest of the year.

Vasilopita

In all my years of ‘being Greek’ I’ve never actually come across any relative who does the whole basil bowl thing.

If you thought the celebrating was over think again! After Christmas and New Year the Greeks also celebrate the Epiphany on the 6th January when Jesus was baptised. This is known as ‘The Blessing of the Waters’ where lots of young men dive into the sea to try and be the first to get a cross which a priest has blessed and thrown into the water. Whoever finds the cross returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household.

Greeks dive for cross

For health and safety reasons, we have never attempted this at home, although my father did threaten to throw a cross into our pond one year…

So there you go. If you want to have a traditional Greek Christmas this year get your basil out and your trunks on and enjoy a very merry Crimbo! 🙂

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6 Comments

  1. 29th November 2015 / 9:37 pm

    Amazing, love the swimming tradition although had not heard of it until now, how cute were you all in the childhood photos. I wrote a post about my childhood recently too and was amazed at the interest, so lovely to share the memories with our readers. Love, love, love our Christmas traditions in the family. Fab post xx

    • Ekaterina
      29th November 2015 / 9:43 pm

      Thank you!! Christmas + childhood make up some of my most treasured memories. Will look for your childhood post I love to read about everyone’s magical memories! Those were the days Xx

  2. Dina
    29th November 2015 / 8:16 pm

    Great post. Lovely way to explain our traditions…

    • Ekaterina
      29th November 2015 / 8:18 pm

      Thank you Dina!! 🙂

  3. 29th November 2015 / 5:49 pm

    What a neat Christmas they have in Greece.mim happy yo try the old Basil thing but so sure about the swimming trunks, the canal here normally freezes at Christmas.

    As fabulous as Greece is, they don’t have such great snowmen there, I am sure!

    • Ekaterina
      29th November 2015 / 7:10 pm

      The winters in Greece can be very cold – my dad is always reminiscing about the ‘snow and the Wolves’…!!

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