O fir tree, o fir tree, no this is not the case during Christmas time on Crete.
In 90% of the families I know, there are colorful and flashing lights together with plastic ornaments on plastic trees. And well, since I too fetch a foldable Christmas tree from the storeroom every year, I have to acknowledge its practical value. Christmas is not the biggest ecclesiastical feast of the Orthodox religion, it stands one rank behind easter.
Christmas time on Crete
The traditional Christmas season in Crete is marked by the. Lent, which begins in November; the festive period then lasts for 12 days: from 25. Dec. up to 05. January, the day before "Foton" (the light).
A few days before, the housewife begins preparations; this includes baking the cookies melomakarona and kourambiedes, which of course are served after Lent has ended.
The Christmas days
On Christmas eve, the 24. In the early hours of December, the doorbells of all the houses are ringing, and children, both young and old, equipped with triangles, are singing the Christmas carol (Kalanta) and gladly accepting a small amount of pocket money in exchange for their singing.
As a feast on the 1. Holiday serves a soup of pork prepared or even a roast pork, sometimes is also offered as a late breakfast already briefly fried morsels of pork, many housewives have also baked a special bread, the Christopsomo (Christ bread).
On 2. On Christmas Day, people like to go out to eat, and the traditional taverns in the inland villages are very popular.
The New Year
The eve of the Νeujαhres is just around the corner. Again you are woken up by children of all ages, this time with the "New Year’s song" (Kalanta). Also a bulb "Scilla Maritima" is offered in the course of the day for a fee, this is placed on the doorstep it should bring good luck for the coming year.
The same morning the city’s band plays music in the main streets and also plays the Kalanta. In the evening, family and friends gather at the house and feast.
The housewife has baked a vasilopita (= king cake, actually a normal sand cake sprinkled with powdered sugar), where in the dough there is a small coin (=flouri) wrapped in aluminum foil, which is supposed to bring its finder luck throughout the coming year. Midnight is here …. Χρόνια Πολλά (Chronia Polla= many years) is wished, the vasilopita is distributed and the flouri finder is envied !
And now it starts …. the cards are taken out, and many a person has gambled away a small or even a larger fortune by early dawn! The bouzouki venues are also very crowded after midnight, dance the night away!!
The next day, all the magic is over, it only remains to see who makes the podariko in the house (which visitor first sets foot in the house), with men’s feet clearly preferred. This also brings good luck for the whole following year.
The consecration of waters – Ton Foton
The 6. January is here, it is the day "Ton Foton". Today the waters are consecrated. After the solemn church mass, the priest (equipped with a cross) and the faithful walk to the sea or the river. The Gospel is read again and the cross is thrown into the water. At the same moment, brave men, defying the cold, jump after it, whoever saves the cross is blessed for the whole year. With this event, the Christmas season in Crete draws to a close!
Clash of cultures
Unfortunately, it must be said that Greek customs have been strongly influenced by Westerners in the last decades and therefore there is often a muddle. Z.B. gifts were originally given on 1.Today, half the population gives each other presents at Christmas! Quite happy children are even given presents on both feasts.
The Christmas tree also found its way into Greek homes through Western influences, as it was first brought to Athens by the Bavarian King Otto in 1833. According to the traditional Greek custom, until then, simple wooden boats decorated the houses.