“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree” No, this is not the case here
In 90% of the families I know, they hang colorful and flashing lights with plastic jewel decorations to also plastic trees. And since I too get my collapsible Christmas tree from the storeroom every year, I must acknowledge its practical value.
Christmas season in Crete
Christmas is not the largest religious festival of the Orthodox religion, it is a rank behind Easter. The traditional Christmas season in Crete is initiated by the beginning of Lent on November 15; the festive period then lasts 12 days: Dec. 25 to 05 January, the day before the “Foton” (Epiphany). A few days before the housewife begins preparations; this includes baking cookies Melomakarona and Kourambiedes that are naturally served only after the end of Lent.
On Christmas eve, 24th December, the sound of ringing chimes already in the very early morning on all doors, and small and larger children, equipped with triangles, sing the Christmas carol (Christmas Kalanta) and take in exchange for their singing a little pocket money .
Christmas Dinner on 25th, a pork stew is cooked or even a roast pork, and partially cooked pork is also offered as a late breakfast already seared morsels. Many housewives have also baked a special bread Christopsomo (Christ Bread).
On the 2nd Christmas Day Greeks like to eat at the traditional taverns in the up-country villages which have great popularity.
New YearOn the day before the Νew Year, you will be woken up again by children of all ages, this time with the “New Year Song” (New Year Kalanta). Also during the day you get offered a flower bulb “Scilla Maritima” which is placed outside the front door threshold. They are supposed to bring luck for the coming year.
On the same morning the town’s chapel makes music in the main streets and also plays the Kalanta and conveys the spirit of the Christmas season in Crete. In the evening, family and friends gather at home and feast. The housewife has baked a Vasilopita (the cake of Holy Basil, actually sprinkled a normal cake with icing sugar), with a small coin wound in the dough with aluminum foil (= Flouri) is that will bring its finder good luck and happiness throughout the coming year. Midnight has arrived ….. Χρόνια Πολλά (chronia Polla = many years) is desired, the distributed Vasilopita and Flouri Finder envied!
And here we go ….. the cards are taken out, and until early dawn many have gambled a small or even larger property! The Bouzouki premises are very well attended after midnight, dance the night away!
The next day, all the magic is gone, it is only to be seen who will make the Podariko in the house (which visitors first set foot in the home), with clearly preference to men . This also brings good luck for the whole following year.
The consecration of the waters, Epiphany – Ton Foton
January 6 it is Epiphany – “Ton Foton”. Today the waters are consecrated. After the church solemn Mass priests (equipped with a cross) and the believers run to the sea or river. The Gospel is read again and the cross thrown into the water. At the same moment courageous and cold-defying men jump after, who rescues the cross is blessed for the year.
With this event the Christmas season in Crete comes to its end.
The east-west confusion
Unfortunately, one must say that the Greek customs were minted in the last decades of strong westerly like bumps, and therefore there is often a mess. For example, gifts were originally distributed on January 1, today, half the population is gifted at Christmas! Quite happy children are bestowed even on both dates.
Even the Christmas tree found its entry into the Greek houses kept by Western influences, which the Bavarian King Otto brought the first time in 1833 to Athens. Until that date, the traditional Greek custom decorated simple wooden boats.