Grand European Travel Director Frank Looze shares his perspective on what it’s like to live in Greece during the holiday season.
In the Eighties I lived in Greece and enjoyed life on one of the country’s sandiest beaches. After a busy summer season the islanders are left to recuperate from the tourist season. Living in Greece, my favorite time of the year was the winter season because the local community came to life.
Due to Greece’s Christian Orthodox roots, Christmas is an important and religious holiday in Greece. That is why it is customary for those of faith to go to church on Christmas morning.
Most towns are decorated with bright lights, bells, angels and the like. You’ll also see boats decorated with many lights because Saint Nicolas is consider a protector of sailors. Christmas shopping in Greece is an absolute delight; streets are packed with people buying gifts for their loved ones. Festivities take place in the major cities but municipal authorities organize music concerts and theatrical performances too. For several years, Athens hosted the largest Christmas tree in Europe.
Christmas time in Greece is a time for feasting. Traditionally, the main course is roast pork, with a variety of side dishes. Recently turkey has also become a popular main dish. On Christmas Eve many Greeks make Christopsomo, a bread with a cross carved into the top of the crust before it is baked. On Christmas Day, the head of the family makes the sign of the cross above the loaf of bread, cuts it and gives a piece to each person at the dining table.
The holiday season doesn’t wind down until well after the New Year begins. The icing on the cake is the feast day of Theophany. All around Greece waters are blessed and a cross is thrown into the waters. Brave Greeks dive into the freezing water to retrieve the cross for good luck.