Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wishing You A Greek Christmas

In Greece, there are many Christmas customs that are similar to ours in the U.S., but most slightly differ from traditions of the West.

Starting on Christmas Eve, children travel from house to house singing 'kalanda', (Christmas carols), using small metal triangles and little clay drums. Afterwards, the children are usually given sweets or coins in appreciation for their musical talents.

In Greek Christmas, the GREEK FEAST becomes the main attraction by both adults and children alike. OPA! Lamb and pork are roasted in ovens and open spits, and on almost every table are loaves of 'christopsomo' ('Christ bread'). This bread is usually made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and the crusts are engraved and decorated in some way that reflects the family's profession. Of course, melomacarona cookies (traditional greek Christmas cookies soaked in honey syrup) are sure to be every home.

During Christmas in Greece, remember that the season is in full swing by December 6, Feast of St. Nicholas, when presents are exchanged, and will last through January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany. In Greek homes, Christmas trees are not commonly used, but recently have become more popular. In almost every house, though, the main symbol of the season is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. A small amount of water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day, a family member, usually the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the bad spirits away.

Gifts are finally exchanged on St. Basil's Day (January 1). On this day the "renewal of waters" also takes place, a ritual in which all water jugs in the house are emptied and refilled with new "St. Basil's Water." The ceremony is often accompanied by offerings to the 'naiads', spirits of springs and fountains.

In general, don't expect Christmas in Greece to feature quite the quantity of displays, Christmas lights, or other “Western’ decorations, except of course in the windows of businesses and the increasing number of Greeks who have adopted Western customs. Christmas in Greece is still a relative oasis of non-commercialism when it comes to Christmas.

But, you don’t have to travel all the way to Greece to have an authentic Greek Feast, drop by Ziziki’s Dallas Restaurants for an authentic Greek dining experience.

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