Six Fun Greek Christmas Traditions You May Not Know About

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Are shortbreads weighing your taste buds down in boredom? Do the too-traditional Christmas colours of red and green feel monotonous and lacklustre?

Well, maybe it’s time to step away from those boring fall-shortbreads and pick up some Greek kourabiedes? And instead of dull ol’ red and green, why not illuminate your décor with vibrant blues and whites? We talked with Sophie Takas from Serano Bakery to discover six ways to add new energy to the holidays this season.

1. Kourabiedes

These Greek butter cookies leave traditional shortbread in the dust. They’re highly delicious with pieces of almond and a hint of brandy. They’re coated and re-coated with icing sugar to look like miniature snowballs.

2. Karavakia

Karavakia are small Christmas ships that are adorned with blue and white lights as homage to St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas’ feast day occurs on December 6th, when Greek households begin celebrating the Christmas season. So if you see a ship on the Danforth decked out in blue and white lights, now you know why!

3. Melomakarona

With hints of orange peel and cinnamon, plus a process of being soaked in honey syrup, this delectable recipe is a staple in Greek households all over the Danforth. As Sophie explains of the importance of these treats in Greek Christmas traditions, “Christmas is a time of families getting together and eating, and of course having their Christmas cookies too.”

4. Kallikantzari

Think of the Christmas elves of Canadian lore; the kallikantzari are hobgoblins that originate in the centre of the earth. They stir up trouble in Greek households during the Christmas season (from Christmas Day to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th) by climbing down chimneys and eating up Christmas treats. Save the kourabiedes!

5. St. Vasili (St. Basil)

“In Greek tradition, there’s no Santa Claus. There’s a St. Vasili and he comes New Years with presents,” says Sophie. This means that Christmas celebrations can last from December 6th through to early-January. Translation: Gift-giving can extend over a month-long period. Bonus!

6. Kalandas

A Greek version of Christmas carols, kalandas are holiday songs that are sung by roaming groups of children. They go from door to door during the holiday season singing in exchange for good luck coins or holiday treats. Christmas trick-or-treating, anyone?

So, if you’re looking to spruce up your holidays this year, why not introduce some Greek customs to your traditional Christmas roster?

Traditional Greek kourabiedes image courtesy Marie-Lan Nguyen.

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