4 Greek Christmas and New Year Traditions

With Christmas nearly upon us, it’s time to trim those trees, light those candles, and play the Christmas music that we all love so much. With so much to do and prepare, so many people to see and celebrate with, it’s important to remember the traditions that underpin the Christmas season. Here at It’s Greek, we’re all about celebrating the best of Greek food and culture, including serving incredible Greek take away every day. That’s why we’re sharing this list of traditions that often feature at a Greek Christmas. Keep reading to find out all about it, and where to go when you’re in the mood for an amazing Greek feed!

Decorated Boats (Karavaki)

Greece is a nation made up of islands, so it is no surprise that a standout tradition at Christmas time involves boats, or a small sea vessel known in Greek as the Karavaki. Dating back centuries, this Greek custom has seen people decorating not only Christmas trees, but also boats during the Christmas season. This is due to the fact that, especially in ancient times, many people were seafarers by way of the geography and landscape of Greece.

These decorated boats were a way to honour sailors and seafarers and to pray for their good luck and safe return to their homes. It’s a practice that can still be seen in public spaces in Greece today, with small boats, or Karavaki, sometimes taking pride of place in public spaces alongside Christmas trees.

Carols (Kalanda)

In Greek, carols are known as Kalanda, and these Christmas-themed songs and hymns are embraced by Greek culture as enthusiastically as any other. In Ancient times, it was customary for children in Greece to go carolling from home to home, and afterward would often be invited into homes for something to eat and drink, as a way for the household to say thank you.

This is a tradition that is still around today, and there are many different carols that are popular in varying regions of Greece, such as Trigona Kalanta (a song equivalent to Jingle Bells), and Kalanta Chistougenna (which translates simply to ‘Christmas Carol’ and is a huge crowd pleaser!)

Saint Basil’s Cake (Vasilopita)

Vasilopita, Greek New Year’s cake

Saint Basil’s cake, which is known in Greek as Vasilopita, is either a special cake or bread baked in honour of Saint Basil and served at New Year’s. This saint is an important figure in Greek tradition and is in some cases, regarded as Santa Claus – responsible for bringing presents for children on the first of January.

Vasilopita is thus traditionally served at midnight on New Year’s Eve, to celebrate Saint Basil, and to welcome in the new year. This delicious cake can be baked in a variety of ways, and many families have their own particular recipe that is used every year.  Replete with vanilla flavour as well as the sweet aroma of orange, after baking, Vasilopita is often topped with a deliciously sweet glaze or icing.

However, the most important addition to the Saint Basil’s cake is not edible at all – rather, it’s a coin which is inserted through the base after baking. When the Vasilopita is served, the person who receives the piece with the silver coin is said to be granted good luck for the new year ahead! Check out this Vasilopita recipe if you would like inspiration for your own Saint Basil’s cake.

Christmas Food

Like in many other cultures, it’s customary to serve traditional foods during Christmas and New Year, and there are many different types of Greek baked goods and foods that come out around this time of year. The smell of kourabiedes and Melomakarona baking signals the start of the Christmas season in many a household in Greece and Greek communities outside of Greece itself.

Christopsomo, which translates to ‘Christ’s bread’ in English, is a particular Christmas Eve tradition and is one that carries a lot of symbolism with it in terms of blessings for the new year. However, it’s not just the baked goods that take pride in place at Christmas! To find out more, check out our guide to Greek Christmas food!

Hungry for Greek Takeaway?

If all this talk of Yuletide traditions and the wafting smell of Christmas cooking has you craving delicious and authentic Greek food, then look no further than It’s Greek! We’re here serving incredible gyros and slinging the best souvlaki in Melbourne right in the heart of Springvale. From deliciously tender pork and lamb to succulent chicken, or a mix of all three, we have all your souvlaki or skewer needs covered. Vegetarian friends fear not! Try our delectable haloumi wrap and get the taste of Greece all the same.

For exceptionally tasty Greek food this Christmas season and into the New Year, place your order online, or call us at 03 9548 5607, and we will take care of you!