In Greece when we talk about the "holidays" we are referring to the holiday period of Christmas, New Year and Epiphany.
Today almost everyone buys and decorates a Christmas tree in Greece, whether it be real or artificial. Usually they are decorated a few days before Christmas and remain in the homes until Epiphany. • The Christmas tree, assumed to be foreign, may even have some Greek roots. Use of decorated greenery and branches around New Year is recorded as far back as in Greek antiquity. • In older times, this custom did not exist in Crete and in some other parts of Greece they would decorate little boats instead.
Vassilopitta or St Basil's cake is the most important custom. A silver or gold coin is placed inside this cake. The custom of a strict order is followed to distribute this cake on New Year in Greece. The first piece is kept for St. Basil, the second for the house, the third for the senior most member of the house that also includes the absent members. It is believed that whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake is sure to be lucky for the next year.
People in Greece celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January. In the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus's baptism when he was a man. It's also known as 'The Blessing of the Waters'. There are many events throughout the country where young men dive into really cold lakes, rivers and the sea to try to be first to get a cross which has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. Whoever gets the cross first is meant to have good luck during the coming year.
While other cultures have Christmas elves, the Greek equivalent is not so benign. Mischievous and even dangerous sprites called the Kallikantzari (or Callicantzari), prey upon people only during the twelve days of Christmas, between Christmas itself and Epiphany on January 6th.
On New Year’s Eve children go around the houses singing New Year’s carols "kalanda" using metal triangles and they are offered sweets and money.At exactly midnight on December 31 the father or the older person in the household turns off the main power switch so "new light" will come with the New Year.
Christmas Day is usually spent with family and the traditional Christmas dinner may be roast lamb, pork or turkey without the trimmings! Fricasse - lamb cooked with egg and lemon sauce - is another traditional Christmas meal in Greece. Loaves of 'christopsomo' ('Christ bread' - large sweet loaves) are usually found on the Christmas table, along with Christmas biscuits, 'melomakarana' (sweet honey covered biscuits) and kourabiedes (icing sugar-coated biscuits).
The Kalanda, or Christmas Carols, are traditionally sung on just three days over the Christmas period: on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and the Eve of Epiphany. Groups of children go from house to house singing the appropriate Carol for the day (there are 3 different songs for each 3 days), usually accompanied by metal triangles (trigono). They will ask the house owner 'na to poume?' (literally 'shall we sing it?') before starting to sing; this is in case there has been a recent death in the household, as those in mourning do not celebrate Christmas. The children are rewarded with sweets or coins from the householder.
The 'Podariko' - First footing. It's considered lucky for a child to be the first person to step over your doorstep on New Years Day. The child should bring a plant called the 'skylokremmyda' (which looks like an onion with shoots) to leave on the doorstep, then step into the house right foot first. The child is rewarded by the householder with a gift of money for the New Year.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!ΚΑΛΑ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΓΕΝΝΑ!! AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR ΚΑΙ ΕΥΤΥΧΙΣΜΕΝΟΣ Ο ΚΑΙΝΟΥΡΓΙΟΣ ΧΡΟΝΟΣ 2013 !!!