Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Kala Christouyenna"
Location: Southern Europe
Tree Type: Cultural Decorations:
- The decorations on the Greek tree symbolize the real gifts on the family trees.
- The tree is decorated with presents on Christmas Eve which remain on the tree until New Years Day (St. Basil's Day). Then they are opened. The children believe that St. Basil gives gifts to them. It is believed that St. Basil makes his visits to the homes by way of a boat.
- In public sites throughout Greece there are displays of lighted and decorated boats symbolic of the Greek merchant fleet.
Traditions: The Christmas season begins with 40 days of fasting. The week before Christmas, Greek families begin baking. One of the baked items is the Christ's bread (Christopsomo), sweet bread made into large loaves of various shapes. An ornament representing the families' profession is baked into the crust. The bread is served with Honey, dried fruits and nuts. A coin is baked in a sponge cake (Vasilopeta) on St. Basil's Day (New Years Day), the cake is broken into small pieces. The first piece is set aside for St. Basil; the second is for Christ and the remainder is given to the family so that its members will be blessed both spiritually and physically during the coming year; the third piece is given to the animals; the fourth piece symbolizes material possessions. The remainder of the loaf is divided among the family. Before those pieces are eaten, each member dips his piece in wine and invokes St. Basil. The family member who finds the coin in their piece of bread will have good luck and prosperity for the coming year. The coin is used to buy a candle that is lighted in church on Christmas Day. After the dinner, the family lifts the table three times for good luck.