Greek Christmas Customs

It’s dusk on the 24th of December, the sun has barely risen when children, bundled up in warm clothes, with scarves and caps on, visit neighboring homes so that they can sing Christmas carols.

It is considered good luck for the owner to open his or her door to at least one group of children. In previous times, children would be given kourabiedes and melomakarona (traditional Greek Christmas desserts), however the traditional has since been altered and children are given some pocket money. The same tradition is repeated the morning of New Year’s even, as well as, on the Day of Epiphany; each day is accompanied by the appropriate carol. Offer the caroling children kourabiedes covered in chocolate or traditional melomakarona with lots of syrup!

If we decorate a Christmas tree or boat, it matters not, just as long as the lights shine bright and are colorful so that Santa Clause can see his way to delivering gifts for young and old. He will be hungry from his overnight trip – perhaps we should leave some orange cookies as a treat; Or maybe some Skaltsounia with honey and walnuts?

A few hours before the new year enters, and with the building anticipation of the countdown to midnight, we enjoy plenty of food and delicacies on a beautifully set table, the protagonist is a turkey. For many decades, Greek enjoy a turkey filled with stuffing on New Year’s – actually, in olden days the turkey was frequently replaced by a chicken and it was filled with chestnuts, walnuts, raisins, ground meet and spices. Our stuffed turkey is inspired by our beloved Elias Mamalakis.

After the countdown is over and the New Year has been welcomed, the vasilopita is cut and anticipation will once again reaches a peak. How many years have we placed all of our hope in the coin hidden within the fluffiness of the vasilopita? Demolishing the cake before we get a chance to try even one bite? This year we are making the conscious decision not to stress over it. We will be enjoying our traditional buttery vasilopita, with or without the coin.

It is best to stay at home though, because until the Day of Epiphany (January 6) the goblins will be out! These are scary, ugly leprechauns that come to life in the imaginations of grandparents and children alike. There is a way to keep them at bay though – because they like pork, leave a slice of juicy pork tenderloin that you have lovingly cooked, or pork with celery or even a piece of colorful pork souvlaki.

And lest not forget to break a pomegranate, so that the New Year goes well!

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