Greek Carols for Christmas, New Year and Epiphany

A very old custom which remains today practically unchanged is Christmas Carols, which is called Kalanda [or Calanda] in Greek. Children, in groups of two or more, still make the rounds of houses singing carols, usually accompanied by the triangle or guitars, accordions or harmonicas.

The children go from house to house, knock on doors and ask: “shall we sing them?” If the homeowner’s answer is yes, the kids sing their favourite carols for several minutes before finishing up with the wish, “And for the next year, many happy returns”. Years ago the homeowners offered the children holiday sweets and pastries, but today they usually give them some money.

The carols are sung on the eves of Christmas, New Year and Epiphany, and they are different for each holiday.

The Greek word Calanda stems from the Latin, calenda, which translates as “the beginning of the month”. It is believed that the history of caroling goes deep into the past and connects with ancient Greece. In fact, they have even found carols written in those distant past days which are similar to the ones sung today. In ancient times the word for carols was Eiresioni, and children of that era held an effigy of a ship which depicted the arrival of the ancient god Dionysos. Other times they held an olive or laurel branch decorated with red and white threads, on which they would tie the offerings of the homeowners.

This Eiresioni song from the Homeric period can still be heard today – with small changes – in the carols of Thrace perfecture in Greece >

In this house we came of the rich-landlord

May its doors open for the wealth to roll in

The wealth and happiness and desired peace should enter

And may its clay jugs fill with honey, wine and oil

And the kneading tub with rising dough.

EPIPHANY CAROLS >
Today is the lights and the enlightment
The happiness is big and the sanctification
Down the Jordan River
Sits our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary
She carries an organ, a candle she holds
And pleads with St. John.
St. John lord and Baptist
Baptize this divine child of mine
I shall ascend to the heavens
To gather roses and incense
Good day, good day
Good day to you master and the missus.

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