Festive celebrations take toll in Greece

With the Christmas break over, travelers and revelers are starting to measure the cost on their pockets and waistlines.

Figures made public yesterday show that some 250,000 Greeks spent Christmas abroad this year, with cities such as Prague, Berlin and Vienna ranking among the top destinations.

A number of holidaymakers pointed out that despite the traveling expenses, trips abroad cost them roughly the same as staying home, given the rising cost of living in Athens. A holidaymaker, who visited Prague over Christmas, said that food and drink in the Czech Republic was cheaper than in Athens. “Our trip cost 1,800 euros, including air fares and accommodation at a very good hotel. Had we stayed in Athens, we would have frittered away the money elsewhere,” she said.

Cheaper options included trips to Bulgaria where a four-night stopover at a five-star hotel in central Sofia would have cost about 400 euros. Other travelers said that they managed to pay for the trip with the help of their Christmas bonus and avoided resorting to consumer loans.

However, bank data showed that the number of applications for consumer loans during the festive period came to over 2,000 applications per day.

About 820,000 people visited the Varvakeio food market in central Athens during December in order to furnish the holiday dinner table. Experts warned those who overindulged not to resort to crash diets.

Dietitian Giorgos Panotopoulos said that diets need to be realistic and must be adhered to over a long period of time in order to be effective. “There should be no stress or guilt involved. Only programming and an essential change in dietary habits over the long term. And above all, an increase in exercise,” he said.

Overconsumption of alcohol is also common during the festive season. Experts recommend that men stick to 21 glasses of alcohol per week, while women limit themselves to 15 glasses on a weekly basis. These guidelines, however, depend on a number of factors, such as individuals’ tolerance for alcoholic beverages.

A Greek woman in Thessaloniki

A Greek woman in Thessaloniki   A woman in Thessaloniki yesterday looks at the window of a bakery that has a display of traditional New Year’s cakes (Vassilopita or Saint Basil’s Cake).

Bakery owners succeeded this week in pressuring the Development Ministry into watering down a draft law which allows supermarkets to bake bread on their premises.

Greek Children sitting

Greek Children sitting   Children sitting on inflatable rubber rings slide down an artificial ski slope outside Zappeion Hall in central Athens yesterday.

The slope is one of the many attractions that have been set up by the City of Athens as part of Christmas and New Year celebrations in the capital, which cost a total of some 1.5 million euros. The municipality also has plans to hold three separate New Year’s Eve concerts at Syntagma, Kotzia and Klafthmonos squares in the center of the capital. The concerts will be free.

Greece > A sunny debut in 2007 will soon turn blustery

The first day of 2007 is expected to be sunny but the weather will soon turn windy and temperatures could drop as low as minus 6 Celsius (21.2 Fahrenheit) in some parts of Greece, meteorologists said.

Weather experts said that winds are likely to reach speeds of between 6 and 7 Beaufort over the weekend but are not expected to affect ferry routes for travelers on their way to the islands.

The temperature fell to -10C (14F) in parts of northern Greece yesterday, including the cities of Florina, Serres and Drama.

Snowfall on Mount Parnitha, northwest of Athens, made area roads dangerously slippery and icy and slowed traffic.

Police have instructed drivers traveling through mountainous areas early in the day to be especially vigilant because of icy conditions.

Christmas Events > In Greece

Thessaloniki Concert Hall,
25th Martiou & Paralia street, tel 2310 895800.
– Tomorrow: Traditional Christmas carols from Austria and the rest of the world, with the St Florianer Sangerknaben Choir, pianist Matthias Giesen and the Melos Brass ensemble.
– Saturday: The Thessaloniki Symphony Orchestra, under Nikos Athinaios, will interpret Handel’s “Messiah” with soprano Majella Cullagh, alto Iris Vermillion, tenor Thomas Michael Allen and bass Tamas Bator, in aid of the Hellenic Society for Disabled Children (ELEPAP).

2006 European Cultural Capital >
For information, call 2610.368.000 or log on to www.patra2006.gr
– Saturday: Children’s Christmas concert, with works by Beethoven and Yiannis Psathas. (8 p.m. at the Art Factory)
– Christmas Eve: Christmas concert with carols and other festive works, by the Melos Brass ensemble and a children’s choir. (7 p.m. at the Art Factory)

Small Music Theater,
33 Veikou street, Koukaki, tel 210 9245644.
– Tonight: Christmas concert by the Small Music Theater music school. Admission is free.

Alavastro Cafe, 78 Damareos street, Pangrati, tel 210 7560102.
– Christmas Eve: Greek Reggae and ska by Locomondo.

Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vasilissis Sofias avenue, tel 210 7282333.
– Christmas Day & December 27-30: “The Magic Flute:” Mozart’s opera, adapted for children, is staged in Greek with interpreters Haris Andrianos, Antonis Koronaios, Vassiliki Karayianni and Christophoros Staboglis, the Fons Musicalis Choir and the Camerata Orchestra under Alexandre Myrat.
– Gloria Theater, 7 Ippocratous street, tel 210 3609400.
Children’s theater play ‘Golden and Silver Christmas Night’
In his fairy tale, Manos Kontoleon sheds a different light upon Christmas Night, with narrations, theater improvisations, music and songs. Adapted and directed by Anna Kontoleon, the production stars Stavroula Thomopoulou and Alkmini Stathatou. On stage Saturday, Sunday and December 26 at noon and December 27-29 at 5 p.m.

African Festival at Athens’ Gagarin club

The festival will also feature two dance groups and a buffet.

Christmas will be all about Africa at the capital’s Gagarin 205 club as it stages the Afro Fest on December 25.

Artists such as African China, one of the most popular reggae bands to emerge from Africa in present times, as well as Nigerian star Lady Erosion, Big Matata from Kenya and Makosa from Congo are some of the acts who will represent the rich traditions and developments of African music.

African China is clearly one of the stars of the festival. Born Chinagorom Onuoha, the Nigerian musician became involved in music and dance as a fan of Michael Jackson, emulating the pop star from a young age, before becoming influenced by the reggae greats. His lyrics cry out against violence, political instability and corruption. Another highlight is Lady Erosion, a singer who began her career beside Sir Victor Uwaifo, with whom she recorded the hit album “Giodogiodo,” blending the veteran’s songs with the young singer’s modern outlook on African music.

The delights of the Afro Fest do not end there: There will also be two dance groups from Nigeria performing traditional numbers, as well as a buffet dinner. For information and reservations, tel 210 8547600.

Athens Mayor Lights Christmas Tree

Athens Mayor Lights Christmas Tree at Syntagma Square

Athens Mayor, Thodoros Behrakis on Thursday night lit the large Christmas tree at Syntagma Square, thus signaling the start of festive events by Athens’ Municipality.

The festive scene is accompanied by the established carrousel and the “Sugar City” which offers candy to all.

This year Santa Claus invites all the children to his “Work-shop”, a small unique house, and receives the children. In the rooms of the house, the children see his helpers, the small elves, making toys. The 80-seat carrousel is comprised of small horses and carts.

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