Saturday, December 10, 2005
MY BIG FAT GREEK CHRISTMAS
My Christmas tree this year.
Rather minimal if you exclude the 60 or so twinkling lights. And that's my only Christmas decoration in my house.
I'd love to have a house with a garden and a fireplace and then I would go full deco! The tackiest the better, LOL!
What I'm missing from my Greek Christmas every year:
Neighborhood children singing "kalanda" (Christmas carols) on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. They knock on our doors every morning, really early and we have to give them money. They compete each other who will be the earliest one.
I remember in 1982, it must have been around midnight, I was home in Greece and my doorbell rung. Back then we were not scared that a serial killer or a burglar would come in to cut us into slices, so after I asked who it was and the answer was "Shall we sing for you?" ("Na Ta Poume?" in Greek) I opened the door. A male choir with all kinds of musical instruments started chanting "Silent Night". It was magical. When I closed the door I had tears in my eyes.
I didn't see them in any of the following years, but I will always remember that night.
Loaves of "Christopsomo" (bread of Christ), a sweet bread formed into shapes of our choice, absolutely delicious. I can eat a whole loaf by myself!
On Christmas Day we eat turkey as well, but that's an imported tradition, I remember eating mostly veal in the old days.
Melomakarona, I think they are equivalent to macaroons (help me here Greek Zoe!). Scrumptuous cookies dripping on honey with almond meg on top. Mamma!
Vasilopitta, or Christmas cake, right after the New Year has come. We hide a pound (gold coin) into the cake. Whoever finds the coin in his or her piece of cake will have good luck in the coming year. Of course little children are always "lucky". I must have won every year until I was 16 or something... Oh, and this year too :o)
The stories about the sprites, or "kallikantzari" we used to hear when we were kids.
These sprites are known to slide down the chimney between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6) and play mischievous pranks on your family. Now most of the houses in Athens don't have chimneys and the children prefer PS2 games than listening to kallikantzari stories.
The exchanging of the gifts on Christmas Eve in my house. Every year, around 8pm after our dinner we would gather round the tree and give gifts to one another. For me it was always the pleasure of giving rather of getting a present. I would try and find the perfect gift for everybody. I still do. Plus, I'm a professionally trained gift wrapper (yo,yo)!
The only problem is I now have to send most of my gifts, and I don't see the reaction on their faces.
What is the best Christmas gift you ever had? Mine has to be my first video recorder in 1983. My life has never been the same again.
In the old days we did not decorate a tree, but a ship. Greece is a nautical country and Saint Nicolas, or Santa Claus is the patron of sailors. We also call Father Christmas Saint Basil and celebrate his day on January the 1st.
New Years's day we would gather at around 1pm to watch the New Year's concert from Vienna. I still watch it from London, I always call home and we cry together when the first notes of the Blue Danube are heard. Magic!