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Christmas in Greece

Kala Christougena! That’s “Merry Christmas” in Greek, and a happy one it is indeed, filled with contemporary festivities and time-honoured customs.

The spotlight is on Syntagma Square, Athens. Besides being the location for the city’s Christmas tree, which is lit amid a ceremony and fireworks display, the much-loved carousel returns for another year of entertainment. A musical and artistic bonanza awaits Athens’ residents, with loads of concerts featuring commercial international carols, Byzantine hymns, and home-grown music.

An enchanting experience awaits the young ones at the National Gardens, which turns into The Forest of Fairytales for the season. Loads of games, educational activities, and storytelling events are in store in this fairy tale land. Kids get to meet Christmas characters, and get to have a chat with Santa in Sotiris Petroulas Square.

The government also has something for the older generation: the City of Athens Technopolis: Xmas. DJs take the stage in this huge party that ends on Christmas Day, but starts all over again on New Year’s Eve.

Many still follow age-old practices. Most households, for example, place a cross with a basil leaf around it over a bowl of water. The cross and basil are then used to sprinkle water in every room to ward off kallinkatzari, impish goblins who love to wreak havoc at this time of year.

The christopsomo or “Christ bread” is also part of tradition, eaten during the Christmas feast along with roasted pork or lamb.

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