Christmas Traditions > Greece and Cyprus

On Christmas Eve, children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalanda, Greek carols. Often the songs are accompanied by metal triangles and clay drums. The children are given sweets and dried fruit as a reward for their singing.

The Christmas feast is of major importance, especially since it ends 40 days of fasting. Special loaves of bread, Christopsomo (Christ Bread) are prepared for the meal.

Many, many¬†decades ago, Christmas trees were unheard of in Greece. Now Athens boasts one of the world’s largest outdoor Christmas tree, constructed of thousands of lights on cables emanating from the top of a tall tower.

Each day, during the twelve days of Christmas, the house is blessed with holy water by a family member as a protection against the Kallikantzaroi, gnome-like mischief makers. These goblins, who are said to live in the center of the earth, make their way into homes via the chimney. They create all kinds of mischief such as dousing the fire, riding on people’s backs, braiding the tails of horses and making the milk sour. In order to help in the efforts to keep them away, the hearth is kept burning day and night throughout the twelve days of Christmas.