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!

4 Greek Christmas Food Traditions

With the Christmas season nearly upon us, it’s time to start thinking about all those Christmas traditions that we hold dear, and which make this time of year special. Many of these traditions centre around the kinds of food that are eaten in the lead up to Christmas, and this is certainly no exception in Greek culture.  Here at It’s Greek, we love to celebrate exceptional Greek food every day by serving the best Greek takeaway, and that’s why we’re sharing this list of traditional Greek Christmas treats.

You’ll find these delicacies on Christmas tables on the big day, and in kitchens and pantries across the Christmas season in Greek households around the world, as well as in Greece itself. Keep reading to find out all about the delicious treats and foods that typically feature at a Greek Christmas celebration.

Melomakarona

These delicious cookies herald the beginning of the Christmas season not only in Greece but in Greek homes around the world, including in Australia. Melomakarona are sweet biscuits or cookies, flavoured with honey, as well as those traditional Christmas-time spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

These decadent cookies are made of a relatively simple recipe of flour, sugar, olive oil and orange juice, and after baking, they are covered in delicious honey, making them delightfully syrupy and sweet. Finished off with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts, melomakarona will be instantly recognisable as a Christmas time treat to anybody with a connection to Greek culture.

Recipes for melomakarona often produce dozens of cookies at a time, making them the perfect treat for those unexpected visitors during the Christmas season, or an ideal delicacy for gifting!

Greek biscuits baked and served at Christmas time

Kourabiedes

Another delicious biscuit, Kourabiedes are also a staple in Greek houses over the Christmas season. In Greece in particular, their arrival in bakeries across the country also signals the nearing of Christmas, just like melomakarona. These cookies are delightfully buttery and baking them can fill your home with the wafting aroma of toasted almonds and rose water.

Topped off with a dusting of layers of sweet, powdery icing sugar, and kourabiedes make the perfect Christmas treat! They are the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth cookie and are often served alongside melomakarona at gatherings across the Christmas season. Plus, like melomakarona, kourabiedes will often be features on a platter designed for gifting to friends, family and loved ones at Christmas time.

Pork

While some households favour turkey as the centrepiece of the Christmas dinner table in countries like America, and even sometimes in Australia, in Greece, it is far more common for this to be pork. It is true that pork has traditionally been highly regarded in Greece when it comes to Christmas, and so it’s no surprise that pork-centred dishes vary from region to region in these celebrations.

These variations can include roast pork, stuffed pork made from pork belly, melt in your mouth slow cooked pork, or a traditional pork stew, served with celery and herbs – often on Christmas eve. Regardless of its preparation, on the traditional Greek Christmas table, pork replaces turkey, ham, or shrimp as the main culinary attraction!

greek food-souvlaki pita bread tzatziki sauce

Christopsomo (Christ’s Bread)

Chistopsomo, also known as Christ’s Bread, is a treasured and sacred tradition in many Orthodox households. It is a dish that carries with it much symbolism, and a tradition that has many variations from family to family. The christopsomo is generally baked on Christmas Eve, or else the day before Christmas Eve, and is served on Christmas day. This special bread is baked as an offering to Christ, in the hopes for blessings for the new year.

Christopsomo is topped with a letter X – a decorative touch that actually refers to the first letter in the word Christ when written in Greek. With many variations of Christ’s Bread, some including dried fruit and others mixing in spices and herbs, it’s possible that this dish will be different from one house to another. Whichever way the christopsomo is prepared, the significance and symbolism of this very special bread remains, and you will be sure to find one at many tables during Christmas.

Check out our guide to Greek food delicacies if you’re interested in finding out more about delicious traditional Greek dishes, or read this Wikipedia page all about Greek cuisine to discover some unique facts.  

Are You in the Mood for Greek Takeaway?

If this article has given you an appetite for incredible Greek food, then look no further than It’s Greek! We serve the best Greek food takeaway, backed by a passion for quality cuisine, and the joy of bringing a taste of Greece to Melbourne. If it’s authentic and delectable Greek food you’re after, then we have the answer here at It’s Greek. Plus, if it’s the best souvlaki in Melbourne that’s on your mind – you guessed it – we’ve got that too!

For an authentic Greek feed, place your order online, or alternatively, call us at 03 9548 5607, and we will happily take care of your order!

Ancient Greece to Modern Melbourne: How Has Greek Cuisine Evolved?

Who doesn’t love Greek food? Here at It’s Greek, we are passionate about Greek cuisine, and are proud to serve you the best Greek food in Melbourne! But Greek cuisine has an interesting history; one that dates back to around 1200 BCE.

So, how did such authentic, quality Greek food end up in modern day Melbourne? Keep reading to find out how the cuisine we all know and love has evolved through ancient times, to the fresh and delicious food we serve you at It’s Greek.

Fresh Greek souvlaki, pita, and greek salad

Ancient Greece: The Mediterranean Triad

Ancient Greek cuisine is said to be characterised by a triad of ingredients: cereals, olives, and grapes – otherwise known as bread, olive oil and wine! A common social event was the symposium, which translates roughly to a banquet, and these banquets, though largely dedicated to drinking, also included food. What this shows is that, even in ancient times, food was for more than just eating; it was for sharing, and further, that often meals were a largely social affair.

Cereals: The first ingredient of the triad is cereals, which most often included wheat and barley. These were baked into bread and typically accompanied by an opson – a word that can be translated to relish in English. In this context, this relish was anything that was eaten alongside the bread – whether made of fruit or vegetables, or fish or meat.

Olive Oil: The olive oil that we take for granted today was a very valuable commodity in Ancient Greece. Olive trees are hardy plants that grow under a variety of different environmental conditions, and which have a history of growing well all over Greece.

Because of this, olive oil became a staple in cooking in ancient times, and it was often poured over food as a garnish before the start of a meal.

Wine: An important staple in Ancient Greece, wine’s uses were many and varied. As we know, wine played a large role in the feasts and celebrations of the wealthy, but it also had a large role to play in the economy of the time, with Ancient Greeks being responsible for cultivating new and innovative methods of making wine. For more information about the importance of wine at this time, check out this Wikipedia page about Ancient Greece and wine.

Greek Cuisine in Australia: The Beginnings

The history of Greek cuisine in Australia can be traced back to two little words: milk bar. The 1950s saw a boom in Greek-owned and run cafes all across Australia – from cities to regional towns. These milk bars were some of the most technologically advanced and stylish cafes in the country, and most often took their lead from the old Hollywood style of “soda shop” seen in America. This meant soda counters, jukeboxes, and a menu of burgers and shakes.

It was typical for the Greek owners and operators to serve up this style of food rather than Greek cuisine, as it seems at the time that Australians just weren’t interested in much outside an Americanised menu. Unfortunately, it was not until around the 1970s or 1980s that Aussies started to really embrace everything Greek cuisine has to offer, but it’s this history of milk bars all over the country that demonstrates just how integral Greek restauranteurs were to the culinary history of Australia.

Modern Melbourne and Greek Cuisine

Today, Greek cuisine is loved and embraced all over the country, especially in Melbourne! Australia has proven to be a great landing place for Greek food outside of Greece itself, with an abundance of fresh seafood available, as well as apt environments for olive trees to thrive.

In modern Melbourne, Greek food is all about ultra-fresh ingredients, tender and succulent meat, and of course, sharing amazing food with the ones we love. All of this fits well into the Aussie food culture, which we now know, was once spearheaded by incredible Greek restauranteurs.

In Melbourne alone, you can find an abundance of Greek restaurants, but when it comes to the very best Greek food in Melbourne, you don’t have to look any further than It’s Greek! We serve the most delicious and best souvlaki you’ll find anywhere in Melbourne, so make sure to check out our full guide to the origins of the souvlaki too.

Looking for the Best Greek Food in Melbourne?

Are you looking for the best Greek food? Look no further than It’s Greek! We are proud to bring you the best that Greek cuisine has to offer. From the best souvlaki in Melbourne to an authentic Greek feed, we thrive on providing excellent customer service, and bringing you exceptional Greek food takeaway! To get the best Greek food near you, place your order online or call us at 03 9548 5607, and we’ll take care of you!