If you are thinking of spending Christmas in Crete this year, you may be wondering what to expect. Although Christmas in Greece has become somewhat traditional and is now based on holy days, there are some differences. Here’s a quick guide to Christmas in Crete.
Christmas Trees or Christmas ships?
In Crete, it is traditional to decorate a model ship with lights at Christmas time, rather than a tree. The ship symbolises the safe return of a family’s menfolk from fishing the harsh winter seas. That said, most Cretan homes now have a brightly lit and decorated tree, too.
In the Greek islands, it is traditional to fast for 40 days during the run-up to Christmas. The fast is then broken on Christmas Day with traditional sweets, including melomakarona and avgokalamara, both of which are delicious fried sweetmeats flavoured with honey, nuts, and cinnamon.
For a different Christmas experience, why not meet Santa Claus in the Cretaquarium in Gouves? The spectacular sea world aquarium celebrates the festive season with musicians, dancers, and magic shows.
The Magic of the Manger
You can enjoy a more traditional spiritual atmosphere during the ‘Divine Liturgy’, which is celebrated in Marathokefalas Cave, Chania. In the cave of St John on Christmas Eve, the nativity is re-enacted, complete with sheep, shepherds, fire and a shining star on the top of the cave.
Traditional Cretan Carols
On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, you may find groups of carol singers calling at your holiday villa in Crete, accompanied by a lyre player. Have some sweetmeats or money on hand to give to the singers.
The Traditional Cretan Christmas Table
Although many families now enjoy turkey, pork is traditionally the main dish on the Cretan Christmas table. Every year, each family on the island would breed and fatten a pig for Christmas, using the meat to make traditional foods such as sausages (apaki), smoked pork (syglino), and pork intestines stuffed with greens and spices (omathies).