Epiphany Special: Christmas in Greece

Christmas Ships Greece

In 1054, medieval Christianity split into two branches: Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox. Today, Orthodox Christians can be found in Russia, Serbia, Jerusalem, Ukraine, Greece, and Ethiopia. Christmas eve falls on January 6, based on using the Julian - not Gregorian - calendar. 

In Greece, it is traditional to decorate karavakia (Christmas ships) in honour of St. Nicholas. Christmas trees are not traditional - although a huge one is put up beside a decorated ship in Aristotelous Square, Thessaloniki. 

Agios Vasilis (Santa) brings children their gifts on New Year's Eve. There is a period of fasting before Christmas. Children sing carols in the streets accompanied by triangles and drums. Then midnight mass which includes communion takes place. After mass families break their fast with a feast.

To create a Greek-themed Christmas event:

  • Date: January 6th or 7th
  • Colors: Blue and White
  • Decorations: ship decorated in blue and white lights
  • Venue Suggestions: Greek restaurant, banquet hall or community center
  • Main Courses: lamb, pork, salads, 'christopsomo' (Christ bread)
  • Sweets: Kourabiedes, Melomakarona, Baklava, Kataifi

There are over 500 U.S. Greek Orthodox churches following the same traditions, including churchs in Anchorage,  Alaska, Brimingham, Alabama, and New York City. In Canada there are over 75 Greek Orthodox congregations, with the largest concentrations in Toronto and Montreal.

Photo Credits: Tilemahos Efthimiadis

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