Contemporary Greek culture and traditions are very rich and diverse, reflecting Greece’s location at the crossing point where the West meets the East and the country’s great history. Most holidays are celebrated traditionally, and Christmas in no exception. The Greek thirteen days of Christmas begins at December 25th and continues until January 6th, which is known as the Feast of Epiphany, and as everywhere in the world is a joyful holiday. The streets are filled with people getting their festive shopping done and decorations are dazzling and plentiful. According to the tradition in many parts of Greece and especially in the islands, people decorate a boat instead of a tree, which symbolizes the maritime identity of the country.
One of the most interesting customs that occurs during these days, takes place on Christmas Eve, when many groups of children, go from house to house singing the Kalanta (Greek Christmas carols), with the accompaniment of music instruments such as guitar and triangle, and people give them a small amount of money.
Of course Christmas also means “time for feasting” and during the festive season Melomakarona and Kourabiedes are our national sweets. You can find large batches of them in every Greek house, which usually has a recipe passed down the generations. The first are semolina, cinnamon, and clove cookies drenched in honey, while the second are rosewater and fresh butter cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar that are normally served on New Year’s but many succumb to temptation and begin consuming them earlier.