Christmas the Greek wayAttalos Hotel
Are you ready to celebrate Christmas the Greek way ?
Athens may not have the natural Christmassy vibe of Europe’s many snow-covered medieval cities, but the Athenians do their best to make up for it with decorations and events all around town. So if you’re having a hard time finding the holiday spirit on a sunny December day in Athens, here’s our suggestions.
Last year the lockdown prevented all Christmas celebrations. This year we choose to enjoy it the Greek way despite the protective measures that still apply due to Covid.
The Athens municipality has decorated the whole city and will hold its annual events like concerts on Syntagma and Monastiraki square , Christmas markets and the The Santa Village in Gkazi .
We cannot praise enough the actions of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. An architectural gem that hosts opera nights , theatrical plays , jazz vibes and hot wine . Additionally , it offers a variety of experiences for adults and young children like iceskating, facepainting and many more .
However , this year we would like to put the highlight on Greek Christmas traditions .
Let’s start with our delicious, yummy treats that you MUST try when spending Christmas in Athens:
Combine flour, sugar, orange, pure olive oil, walnuts, herbs (cinnamon, cloves) and honey and you will get the most beloved traditional dessert . These soft, syrupy cookies are regarded to bring good luck for the New Year.
No Greek Christmas is complete until you try the first kourabie. Similar to an almond shortbread cookie, these desserts resemble a snowy landscape with powdered sugar .
Diples (Fried Turnovers)
Originally from Peloponnese, diples are fried treats made from thin sheets of dough strips folded . These sweets are then drizzled with honey syrup , cinnamon and chopped nuts . This is a “grandma specialty” .
The most important tradition in Greece is to cut the Vasilopita in New Year’s Day. This cake got it’s name after Saint Agios Vasilis, the Greek Santa, who brings gifts the first night of the year. Most families cut it right after the changing of the year or in the morning of January 1st . Traditionally, we put a coin inside the cake when making it . When it is time to cut it, everyone comes around the table and the householder starts assigning pieces to everyone. The first piece is for the Christ, the second for the Virgin Mary and the third for the house. The rest are for the members of the house or friends celebrating together by order of age. The person whose piece has the coin inside will be lucky for the rest of the year!
Christmas and New Year carols
Kids go door to door singing Christmas and New Years Eve carols, trees are decorated and family meals are shared . In addition, each region has their own specific traditions.
The Christmas boat
People in Greece, especially in the islands, used to decorate a boat for Christmas, long before the Christmas tree became the norm. This was due to the relationship of Greeks with the sea. A funny occurrence is that Saint Nicholas is the protector of ships and seamen , which would make sense if we celebrated Santa Claus instead of Saint Basil . The Christmas tree is a foreign custom which was brought to Greece by Otto, the first King of the country, who was of Bavarian origin. Over the years, the Christmas tree prevailed, but you can still find houses and shops with a Christmas boat decoration. If you wander enough in the streets of Athens, look inside little shops and traditional places and you will surely find one!
The pomegranate tradition
The pomegranate has its ancient roots in Greek mythology and especially in the establishment of the Eleusinian Mysteries. It has been a symbol of fertility and good fortune since the ancient times. According to the tradition, you have to throw a pomegranate outside the front door of your house on New Year’s Day. The pomegranate has to break to disperse all the good fortune in it and bring happiness, good health and abundance to the whole family.
Καλά Χριστούγεννα !!!
Now that you have mastered Christmas the Greek way, we have 3 seasonal phrases you will need . “Chronia Polla” (wish for longevity ), “Kala Christougenna” (Merry Christmas), or “Kali Chronia” (Happy New Year).
Say this to any Greek and we guarantee you will make their day .
Attalos Hotel will offer Christmas delicacies to our guests and perform the cutting of Saint Basil cake on January 1st with a surprise for the lucky guest that will get the coin .
Our rooftop bar will be open till later on New Years Eve and will serve champagne to those who prefer to celebrate and see the magnificent fireworks over the Acropolis .
Our staff will be more than happy to assist you and give suggestions so you can make the most of Christmas – the Greek way .