Shall we sing? (An article about the Greek carols)

On Christmas Eve morning, the bell rings, and the atmosphere is filled with familiar melodies: Christmas Carols. The sound of the flute, or the melodica and sometimes only a simple triangle accompany the children’s caroling. The chanting culminates in various ways of wishing a long life to the landlord and his family. The lady of the house offers small amounts of money for the children’s piggy bank. In the country, kids are offered traditional sweets of the season, almonds and fruits.

Christmas signals the advent of 12 holidays also known as Dodecameron, which ends on Epiphany Day. On the eve of the most noted holidays such as Christmas, and Epiphany, children sing special carols for each holiday. What are these carols and how they have evolved into their present form?

The Greek word Kalanda (carols), derives from the Latin calendae, which means the first day of the month. In Ancient Greece, there were various texts comparable to the contemporary Kalanda, which contained praises for the landlord and good wishes for the prosperity of the household. At that time, children sang carols while carrying boat models in honor of the God Dionyssos. Sometimes they carried branches of olive or laurel upon which they hung their tips and gratuities.

From the second half of the 2nd century B.C. the beginning of the New Year was celebrated on the first days of January. According to a tradition, Rome was once rescued by three brothers, Kalandos, Nonnos and Eidos who undertook the feeding of its inhabitants. The first one undertook the first twelve days and was named Kalandas, the second undertook the following 10 days, which were called Nonnas and the third one the last eight days, which were named Eidous. Gradually, the two latter holidays were overshadowed by the first, which was retained as a major holiday in the Greek calendar. The other two were to be forgotten a long time before the onset of the Christian holidays. In the first years of Christianity, the Kalanda, (carols) were prompted by the need to narrate the meaning of the holidays and the traditions surrounding them.

Read more and listen to Greek traditional carols at > Music Library of Greece – LILIAN VOUDOURI

The Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” was created by the Friends of Music Society to meet the needs of all Greek music lovers. It makes available – for the first time in Greece – a large collection of information and study material on music to visitors, but also to distant users.

The collections of the library focus on these areas: Western Music, Greek art music from antiquity and the Byzantine period to the present, Greek folk music, including the Rebetika, traditional music from all parts of the world, and jazz.

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