Christmas is one of the most celebrated, if not the most celebrated holiday of the year in winter. If you are living in Greece or plan to travel to Greece for Christmas this year, read on to learn what to expect this season and see how the Greeks celebrate this holiday.
This time in Greece there are traditions that have been carried on from many years ago.
Christougena, which in Greek means Christmas, is celebrated on the 25th December and is a time when families come together to celebrate. Greece has it’s own version of Santa Claus, they call him Saint Vasilis, who comes to their home on Christmas eve to deliver a few small gifts to the children.
Christmas Holidays in Greece
Greece, endowed with beauty and a rich tradition, invites you to go on a special Christmas journey through all the senses; to taste, smell, see and feel the authentic Yuletide spirit through a plethora of seasonal delights.
The first snows of the winter transforms mountain villages, their traditional dwellings and spiraling peaks, into a scene fit for a Christmas card. Icing sugar-dusted fir trees; crisp, clear air; smoke wafting gently out of chimney tops from the roaring log fires in every hearth; the smell of sweetmeats and pastries; rosy faces lit up in anticipation of the coming festivities and time-honoured customs. And on top of this, the mild winter in our country guarantees a generous helping of sunshine to accompany you on countryside walks and to add that extra touch of joie de vivre to the celebrations in cities, villages and islands all over Greece.
Athens always has a grand welcome in store for Christmas. The illuminated central squares and streets ring with music and merriment. All corners of the city- its hotels, shops, cafes and restaurants- are bedecked with thousands of twinkling fairy lights. Syntagma Square with its gleaming Christmas tree, carousel and other children’s rides, confectionary stalls and numerous events leads the whole city into the holiday mood. The National Garden is transformed into a dreamland of discovery that enchants both young and old alike.
You’ll be carried away by the intoxicating, fairytale atmosphere and as a visitor you’ll soon find yourself immersed in the jollities, with exactly the same verve and enthusiasm as the Athenians around you. There are literally countless opportunities for recreation and entertainment in cultural hubs like Technopolis and other such venues. Theatrical performances, music concerts, outdoor events, charity bazaars as well as the nightlife; whatever you choose has that special Christmas sparkle.
Patras becomes a children’s paradise at Christmas. Your little ones will adore the fairytale village that is now a seasonal fixture at the port. Weaving a little Christmas magic with all their favorite stories, it makes an irresistible festive treat.
Hopping on the famous rack-and-pinion railway, walking the town’s alleyways while taking great refreshing gulps of mountain air, visiting the Monastery of Agia Lavra and, of course, skiing or riding snowmobiles down the slopes of Helmos are just a few of the things you can do in this historic town.
Pelion enthralls its visitors with its heavenly beauty whatever the time of year and Christmas is no exception. It only takes a few snowflakes to settle to make the perfect winter wonderland. Take a winter stroll through gorgeous villages and forests so dense the sun rays cannot penetrate them. Finally, don’t forget to make some time for fun and games in the snow at its ski centre.
Elati – Pertouli
Fir trees, snow-covered meadows, the scent of wood and wet soil, a hot brew in a chalet or elegant café, sleigh rides at the ski centre of Pertouli. This is an area in the heart of Greece whose scenery can rival anything seen in the Alps.
Combine your stay with a visit to a special Christmas funpark in Trikala, the Mill of the Elves. Definitely a major winter highlight for the city, it consists of various rides, children’s activities and artistic events. It goes without saying that it all revolves around Santa’s workshop. Even now the elves will be beavering away to make the story of this Christmas as transfixing for Mum and Dad as it is for the kids.
You’ll get the feeling here that the lake is practically untouched by human hand and, as a veil of white mist swirls up from its waters, this mysterious and captivating location make an ideal romantic Christmas retreat. Definitely for lovers of pristine nature and those who hanker after more traditional ways of living.
Traditional and unpretentious, mountainous Metsovo enchants its visitors at Christmas with its authentic atmosphere and copious amounts of the white fluffy stuff!
Agios Athanasios – Kaimaktsalan
In Agios Athanasios, the beautiful village with its buildings of typical Macedonian style, you can celebrate Christmas in a snowy landscape of astounding beauty. And naturally the ascent to Kaimaktsalan ski centre is a must if you don’t want to miss all the fun on the slopes.
Thessaloniki Christmas: Illuminations twinkle through the misty air; wonderful aromas have you yearning for all the Christmas treats; the traditional decorated ship takes pride of place in Aristotelous square; groups of friends gallivant around town in high spirits and restaurants overflow with customers. The city pulls out all the stops at this most wonderful time of the year. Everyone and everything skips to the festive beat and a relaxed, joyful demeanor will unlock all the magic for you.
Whether your intention is to head for the ski slopes by day and the village bars and clubs by night or simply take relaxing strolls through magnificent countryside, Arahova guarantees an unforgettable Christmas.
Oniroupoli – The Dream town of Drama
Drama Christmas: Christmas is coming and Santa is in charge! In the central square of the city, he’s taken up temporary residence in a village straight out of your children’s sweetest dreams. And he’s brought his elves along to liven things up just in time for the big day.
Christmas customs in Greece
On Christmas and New Year’s Eve, up and down the country, neighbourhoods harken to the voices of children singing carols, heralding the happy news of Christ’s birth.
In Greek homes, a flurry of baking means that delicious aromas hang permanently in the air. The Christopsomo, blessed bread, is prepared for Christmas and Vasilopita, a special pie with a lucky coin hidden inside, for New Year’s Day. And no dining room would be complete without a bowl of kourambies and melomacarona, traditional Christmas treats, to tempt your guests throughout the holyday.
Finally, what better way to invoke the season’s spirit than watching children hanging baubles on the tree and then shrieking with delight when the lights are turned on for the first time. It has been known for some Greek families to get their tree up and decorated by the middle of November, such is their enthusiasm to get the celebrations underway.
In Greece we love and cherish Christmas. That’s why everything comes together to make the Christmas you have always dreamt of. The one in your heart!
5 reasons to spend Christmas in Greece
Although Greece is not a typical Christmas destination, there are actually many reasons to take the big step and visit the country for Christmas break. Apart from the regular reasons, such as having family and friends in the country and coming to visit for holidays, here are some other reasons to spend Christmas in Greece.
Get to know Greece away from beach holidays
Christmas in Greece is a very special season and so different from the usual “sea and sand” type of country that most people have in mind when thinking about coming for holidays. Christmas in Greece is in winter time, when the weather is cold (about 5-10 C in the day and maybe even colder in the countryside). It is usually sunny but the atmosphere is cold.
Slight chance to see Greece in snow
Although in general it rarely snows in Greece, sometimes it does snow during Christmas time, especially in the highlands of the countryside. Therefore, you may have the rare chance to see Greece in snow! How surreal does this sound? Most snowfalls happen on the northern side of the country, such as on the western side of Macedonia and Epirus, and in regions with high altitude, such as Pelion, Zagoria, central Peloponnese and others.
Did you know that Greece has ski centers?
When snow falls, an even more special thing happens in Greece: the ski centres open. Most foreigners do not know that Greece has ski centres but in fact there are more than 10 such centers all over the country. The most popular are the ski centres in Mount Parnassus, in Vasilitsa Grevena, in Tria Pente Pigadia Naoussa, in Chania of Pelion and more. Of course, these are small ski centers in comparison to the famous ski centers in central Europe, however they become very popular in winter with fans of ski and snowboard.
Christmas Theme Parks
Many Christmas theme parks open during the holiday season, usually from late November until early January. Such Christmas parks are found in various towns all over the country. They are not as large as the parks in famous Christmas destinations, but they give a cheerful atmosphere in the popular Greek winter destinations. They include kiosks with traditional products and Christmas decorations, kiosks with elves and Santa Claus, workshops for biscuits and candies, fairy tale narrations, and many other activities.
Such very famous Christmas parks in Greece are:
- the Mill of the Elves in Trikala, close to the tourist region of Meteora, housed in an renovated factory complex
- the Dreamland Park in Drama, northern Greece, hosted at the Municipal Park
- the Starland Park in Ioannina, right on the side of the famous lake of the city
- the Christmas Factory in Athens, housed at the Technopolis cultural venue in Gazi neighborhood,
and many more…
Experience special customs
Christmas in Greece is a holiday with many customs and traditions. You will see children going from one house to the other and singing the carols, decorations of large Christmas trees and boats in town squares, musical bands marching the streets and playing Christmas songs, the traditional sweets melomakarona and kourabiedes in all windows of pastry shops, and many more nice images to take back home from your Christmas holiday in Greece.