Celebrating Christmas With the Greeks

IMG_3608Regardless of whether you are Greek or not, live in Greece or among the Diaspora or if you are real lucky and you get to spend the holidays in Greece – I think a primer on the Greek Christmas is the call of the day.

When Greeks speak of the holidays, we mean Christmas, New Year’s and the Epiphany. Christmas and New Year’s are a busy time (like anywhere else) with shopping, baking and preparing for the friends & family that will drop by.

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Christmas is firmly in the “family column” holidays with Greeks spending long hours with family & friends over long, drawn-out dinners, wine and many desserts and sweets. Other customs during Christmas are the decorating of the Christmas tree, many will adhere to the 40 days of fasting before Christmas and children can be seen and heard singing Christmas carols from door to door in all neighborhoods.

Until a few decades ago, the Christmas tree played little or no role in the Greek Christmas. People used to decorate a small (sometimes handmade) boat, which called out to Greece’s close affiliation with the sea and it’s long marine history.boat_thes

In the town squares of many cities near the sea, one will find a large replica of a boat in it’s main squares decorated with lights and ornaments. Shops and office windows are also often decorated and they will remain until January 7th, the following day of the Epiphany.

Although many different desserts are enjoyed and offered during the holidays, there really are just two types of cookies which are standard and found in each and every Greek home. Those cookies would be the Melomakarona and Kourabiedes.

The melomakarona are a spiced cookie, fragrant from cinnamon and cloves and brightened up with orange zest. The cookies are then dunked in a syrup and topping with a walnut crumb mixture with more cinnamon and cloves.

You will find many recipes for Melomakarona and this recipe (although not a new offering on my blog), is a good one – a delicious one!IMG_3614

The other Christmas cookie offered during the Greek Christmas is Kourabiedes. Lot’s of butter is used here. The key to good Kourabiedes is the use of butter. Where Melomakarona use walnuts – Kourabiedes are paired with toasted almonds.IMG_3610

I can’t choose which of the two Christmas cookies I like best but I’ll tell you one thing…these Kourabiedes, if made well (with butter) and stored in a cool place in a sealed container, will only get better and still be butter, soft and just a little crunch from those chopped almonds.

On Christmas day, there are two popular main dishes served. One being a whole roast turkey with a stuffing of rice, raisins or currants and most definitely chestnuts.IMG_3365-1

Another traditional meal will be centered around a roast pork, be it a loin, shoulder or most spectacularly, a whole suckling pig.IMG_3578

In my home, the baking of cookies and other sweets, be it traditional or non-Greek has been completed. On to preparing for the Christmas dinner and the remaining dishes for the holidays.

I’ll do my best to squeeze in as many timely recipes, dishes and customs as the holidays unfold.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

© 2009,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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17 Comments for “Celebrating Christmas With the Greeks”

says:

Extraoridinary! The cookies are mouthwatering and I could so go for some roast turkey stuffed with rice, raisins and chestnuts! What wonderful culinary traditions and I am sur that your table will be amazing!

says:

To be a guest at a Greek table for the holidays Peter. I wish you a wonderful holiday season with your friends and family. May your kitchen be filled with successes.

Bridgett

says:

Wow, I almost wish I was Greek, but being Italian is similar with an abundance of food and family. I wish you a wonderful holiday, Peter!

says:

Wow. Your post and your photos have made me sooo hungry! Now I am missing my Greek Mom and relatives more than ever. Thanks for keeping these wonderful traditions and sharing them with us through your blog.

γαστεροπλήξ

says:

με το καλό να γιορτάσουμε και φέτος, χρόνια πολλά με υγεία από την πατρίδα

says:

All those Greek treats look so wonderful Peter. My Ma is bringing all her Italian cookies for us to eat up. Have a wonderful Christmas Peter!

says:

Hmmm I’d love to spend a Christmas in Greece. Thanks for all the info and recipes, delicious.

My best wishes for you and your family :)

says:

Kala Christougenna!

Χρόνια πολλά, καλές Γιορτές!
Ευλογημένη Χρονιά!