Friday 31 December 2021

Happy New Year

 Kronia Polla, Kali Kronia 

All the best for 2022

Stay healthy, enjoy life 

I've been wishing everyone a happy 2020. Elderly moment!

Hell, we don't want to do that one again 

The pomegranate smashed with great success. It's going to be a terrific year, one way or another.
Cleaning up is another story!!

Opening the prosecco

And the lucky coin went to....son in law Kyriakos

Cheers big-ears

Wednesday 29 December 2021

New year Customs

 As usual there are a bunch of traditions, most of which we still observe.  They're all to bring good luck in the coming year.  This are what we do in our family and  local area.  They differ all over the country.

1. Breaking a pomegranite at the front door.  If we can find a pomegranite at this time of the year.  We break ours at our front gate so the seeds and mess are outside on the road.  Our daughter breaks hers at the front door.  Nice mess to clean up on New Years morning.

2.  Vasilopita.  A St Basil's cake or a loaf of bread with a lucky coin.  We have a cake on New Years Eve, bread at New Years lunch and then another family cake later on.    These cakes or sweet breads are cut at every school, club and work place and the actual ceremony of cutting the cake and handing it around might not take place till February. 

 The lucky coin used to be put under the icons on the wall and used to buy incense.  Probably still is in small villages.  That died out in our family when m-in-law passed away.

The first slice of cake is for the Virgin Mary, the second for the house and land or the crops, the next for the oldest in the family and so on down the line.  Everyone digs through their slice  looking for the lucky coin and if we haven't found it by the time we've got through all the family members then we'll cut a piece for distant relatives too, or the dog.

3.  Playing cards, making bets and buying a lottery ticket.  Lucky games are fine, as long as you win! We all played cards around Yiayias big kitchen table with the kids.  She had a bulging purse with low value coins with which we all placed bets  .  Usually it was the card game '21'.  

Meanwhile down the road on an empty plot serious bet-ters would gather to throw coins, heads or tails, and huge amounts of money were won or lost.  Men would gather from all over the island.  I think that tradition has died out too, in that place anyway.  We usually buy a national lottery ticket just before New Year.  We're still waiting for a win.

One year down in Crete we played Gin Rummy with Navy friends till dawn.  It was the only time I ever won.  The money wasn't much but the thrill was .

4.  Fireworks?  With a big question mark.  They have been banned this year so crowds don't gather but I can't see why our Mayor doesn't give us a show.  They are set off from one of the car ferries in the bay and we all 'oooh and ahhh' from our balconies.  He hasn't put on a show for several years.

Church bells used to peal joyously at midnight, and boats blasted their hooters but we haven't heard either in the last two years.  Last year it was quiet and dark in our old neighbourhood where we go to our daughter's to see in the New Year.  The only celebrations were on TV and from young Jamie who entered the house with an old key and banged us all on the head.

5. First Footing.  Just before midnight the luckiest in the family goes outside and is the first person to enter the house bringing luck for the New Year, right foot first.   It's usually the youngest.  And he/she is armed with that big key though why he has to bang us all on the head I'm not sure.

6. New Years carolling.  Once again on New Years eve the kids go from house to house singing the one traditional carol.  As at Xmas they bring good luck to the house and expect a small coin in return or a much larger amount if they are kin or close neighbours or friends.

Kali Kronia

Happy New Year

Saturday 25 December 2021

Merry Christmas

 Merry Christmas everyone 

A medley of photos 

They speak for themselves

Wednesday 22 December 2021


Some of the traditions our Greek family have have carried on over the years at Christmas 

1.  Caroling.  On Christmas Eve in the morning bands of children will bang on your door and ask 'can we sing to you'.  To which you always answer yes unless you're a nasty grinch.  The children enter and sing the carol, the one carol, that is sung on Xmas Eve.  To which you answer with a 'and here's to next year' and a coin or two.  If they're godchildren, next door neighbours or your own cherub then it will be far more than just a few coins.

My traditional person always looks eagerly for these kids because he says it brings good luck to the house in the coming year.  In our present house up in the hills there are no neighbourhood children and we have to bribe a now teenage grandchild to come and bring us good luck.

2. Decorating a ship instead of a tree.  Most households now put up the western tree but it is far more greek to decorate a small boat or kaik├» (fishing boat).  Downtown the Mayor usually does both but I haven't noticed either this year.  Maybe there is something covered in lights which only show up at night.  The harbour wasn't at all festive when I went down to the chemist this morning.

Our boat lit up on the wall

3. Christopsomo.  The Christ bread which is cut on Christmas day.  This is a large loaf of, often, homemade bread with a braid of dough  on top forming a cross and a walnut in the middle.  Ours is cut before the family Christmas day lunch. The traditional head of our household draws the sign of the cross over the bread with the big knife and then cuts big slices and hands them round the table.  At New Years the bread will have a lucky coin in it.

4.  Presents should be opened on New Years Day and not on Christmas day.  Here it is Saint Basil, whose feast is on January 1st, who brings the gifts and not Saint Nick.  My kids, being cross cultural thought they should have presents from both.  Mother (ie me) decided that St Nick was the bringer of toys and that was that.

6. You must bake piles and piles of Christmas cookies, so says my traditional person who has taken over the baking.  After 40 years of a foreigner baking his biscuits he has decided that only he can make them the way his mother did.  Go for it says me.

The cookies (biscuits) are melomakarouna, made with honey and oil, orange juice and walnuts and kourabiethes made with lots of preferably (but not preferably for me) sheeps butter and almonds.

We make piles of them every year so anyone entering the house can be offered one or two on a plate with a glass of raki or whisky.  Then we give packets of them away to friends and neighbours and also to anyone who has had a loss in the family.  During the first year of mourning you are not supposed to make, or offer, sweet biscuits and you are not allowed to dye red eggs at easter.

So, folks that's some of the traditions which we carry on here.  Of course in the cities things have changed and traditions are not followed to the letter.  The younger generation looks on it all a bit differently too and they are more likely to follow the western traditions.  But, in our house we follow the greek rules.

Saturday 18 December 2021

Christmasses Past

My first Christmas in Greece in 1976 was a non-event.  I remember walking down main street Piraeus, the big port city near Athens, on a cold Christmas eve along a dark undecorated street, the only sign of Xmas a decorated tree high up in the window of an apartment building.  I didn't really mind back then.  My mind was not on what Santa would bring but whose hand I was holding.

It made an impression on me for sure because I  remember the occasion vividly.  No carols, no christmas cake, no twinkling lights.  It was years before Piraeus decorated its streets and broadcast piped music for the shoppers.  When my children were very small I wanted them to delight in the magic of Christmas, the anticipation of opening those presents under the tree, leaving whisky and cakes for Santa, reading them 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' the evening before, hanging up the stockings and playing with new toys the next day.

Everything had to be done from scratch.  I made xmas crackers out of those cardboard loo roll tubes, very disappointing.  There was no bang but they did get to wear a homemade paper hat.  I  made ornaments for the tree and house from coloured paper I bought from school supply shops.  I don't remember where the tree came from.  

When the two girls were very young I used to take them into the public parks and visit the ancient ruins in Athens and I would visit the British Council Library.  It was the only way I could get english books to read.  The selection was of old dusty books by even older British travellers and writers.  It didn't matter.  It was in English.

The British Council organised every year a xmas bazaar which back then took place in the British Embassy itself.  I know I found xmas stockings there and I probably found a few xmas sweets and cards.  They had a Father Christmas too though I don't remember my kids sitting on his knee.   The two girls were a bit stand-offish after an early life of isolation with a foreign mother and a father who was in the Navy.  They had been known to swear, in greek, at nice old women who spoke to them in the street so I probably didn't dare suggest that they be sociable with Santa.

It wasn't till the mid 80s that xmas became a commercial event in the city.  Then big shops would open in the main market selling everything we now associate with the season, here and at home.  Piraeus streets were lit up by the lights that London had the previous year.  Maybe they still are.  

Every holiday we went to Poros for a few days.  Not my favourite way to spend a holiday.  Too many greek relatives very close by. We often compromised by staying home for the actual day so I could have traditional dinner with an elderly South African couple I had met. We went to the island for New Year.
Margo and Jimmy lived on a boat in the marina and were excellent with the girls. They helped keep me sane.

  Poros did not start decorating for another 10 years and Xmas was  traditionally Greek.  Small children came around singing the time honoured carol on Xmas Eve and were given a coin and a cake.

The housewives were busy baking melomakarouna (honey biscuits) and kourabiethes (walnut biscuits), dipless (sweet pastry) and we were offered these everytime we took a step into a local house.  There was no thought of saying 'no'.  They wished you the appropriate seasonal greetings and you answered back with the classic reply.  And you scoffed a sticky cake or two.  The men were also offered a glass of whisky and Metaxa brandy was also popular back then. 3* real rough stuff.
Women were offered a sweet liqueur, homemade. Now and again I was offered whisky. Foreign women were known to be a bit outrageous. A Greek woman wouldn't dream of drinking hard liqueur and often didn't even drink wine.

The children did get Christmas presents  but these were supposed to be opened on New Years Day.  They weren't.  They were ripped open there and then.  Horrors.  You couldn't make a child wait that long.  However, the presents were rarely toys.  They were always clothes and shoes, given by the godparents.  Grandparents usually gave the children money which was quickly taken away by the Mama to buy more clothes and shoes.

On Christmas day itself the family gathered to eat together, usually roast pork and potatoes or pork and greens in a lemon sauce. I don't remember turkey being on the menu at all though it was in later years often in the form of an egg and lemon soup. The main event of the day came later.  Christmas day is the fiesta of all those named Christos and Christina.  We had a few in the family and we trapsed from house to house to eat more pork, or lamb, drink  wine, dance a step or two, laugh at slapstick Greek jokes, me trying to be merry. Thank goodness I had small children and an excuse to leave early. The men drank on as was the tradition.

Our family Xmas dinner nowadays is half Greek and half English. And the men drink on . 

I miss carols by candlelight and the magic of warm decorated shops, piped music and a jolly old St Nick.

One year, about ten years ago, we went to Athens just before Christmas and visited a big shopping Mall. I almost cry at the memory. Christmas music wafting through the halls, hustle and bustle of Xmas shopping, decorations, baubles and an atmosphere so very, very different from that of a cold Greek island.

A few times we also went into Athens to the Xmas bazaar now organised by the Athens Church of England. Mince pies, real plum puddings, so many English voices, piles of cheap books, the white elephant stall,  chutneys, jams and cakes, Irish coffee, scones.  Tombola, raffles , a choir singing carols and the Vicar in a kilt.  There was a bazaar held this year but we couldn't go. Maybe next year.

Thursday 16 December 2021

Eats for Xmas

 Some goodies I've made for the festive season.  Not traditional and some won't be made again

Beetroot chutney
I made a small batch of this 2 years ago with leftover beetroot.  It was delicious.  However I don't remember what recipe I used and although the next batches were fine they weren't fantastic.  This one has apple and beetroot, vinegar and red wine.  I might try just one more recipe, next year.

Xmas mincemeat buns
Yes.  I've just taken the second lot out of the oven.  The recipe is from Mary Berry via the 'English Kitchen' blog.  They are very, very easy.  Just one bowl, a spoon and a muffin tin.

Dried figs in balsamic vinegar
I'm not so sure about these.  They will be nice with cheese but I also have pickled onions and quince paste.  Probably won't bother to make them again.  

Quince paste

After a few tries I got this to the right consistency, hard jelly, and it is enjoyable.  I don't think I'll bother again.  Only one of my daughters and I will eat it now and again, when we remember, with a glass of wine and some cheese.  I have a small container in the fridge and another in the freezer.  It's going to last a long time.

I've made two batches of xmas mince pies which have been eaten.  Next on the list is the xmas cake.  

K finally found some smallish onions so those will be pickled, with vinegar and honey. I still have a jar from last year. 
We forget to eat them. They're not traditional like salted sardines, spiced water buffalo or goats cheese.

Sunday 12 December 2021


 The family that runs together stays together .

Porosea is an annual, mostly, multi sporting event.  My grandchildren have all run, swum and biked in years gone by.

This October one part of our extended family took part, mother, father and daughters.  Son was studying in Athens.  

Here they are, all t-shirted and numbered up for the 10 kilometre run 

All psyched up and ready to go

The finish line.  The photo is not clear but they all came across the finish line together,  hands up in a victory flourish.  Well done Bitounis.

Father and one daughter were well ahead of the others so they waited a half-k before the finish for the other two to catch up so they could start and finish together.  

Not only did they take part but they were also part of the volunteer team, along with other family members, handing out water, guiding the competitors and helping to feed them.

Bravo kiddos

Sunday 5 December 2021

The Geese are getting Fat

 Xmas cards are written. The tree and boxes of decorations have come down from the store room. 

I found, ordered and received boxes of Xmas crackers from here in Greece. Last year they came from England. Too expensive now that Britain is no longer in the EU.

Presents have been ordered online and some have arrived 

Pickled onions, beetroot chutney, chicken liver pate and something new, balsamic figs are on the list . I should get most  made this week.

Here's hoping those figs are worth the effort . Quince paste, membrillo is in the freezer, made with this season's quince.

The first Xmas mince pies are out of the oven. They're delicious, made with mincemeat I had in the freezer.

I've made another bowl of mincemeat and extra pastry for a few more trays of spiced Xmas pies. 
I might make a Xmas cake or just a last minute boozy fruit cake.

6 bottles of sauv blanc received from Northern Greece.
For those who enjoy fine wine and not that stuff from the plastic barrels.
Tis the festive season.

I think I've got it. By jove, I think I've got it. 

Wednesday 1 December 2021

In With the Old

 Where is that 'stuff' that was removed from K's shed to make way for the wine?

Here it is.  All of it.
He has a chappy here to help him clear the mess and throw out crates of rubbish, old cables, bits of wood, old rusty machines, bits of metal, old rusty what-nots that 'might have come in handy'.  But it is still far from finished.  At least the shed is clear and clean.  He has put up new shelving and everything that goes back inside has its place .

My father's motto was -
'A place for everything and everything in it's place'

Meanwhile.  Three tatty old director chairs.

A friend of his is renovating his cafeteria this winter and oh what wonderful treasures we have acquired from there

A big old rusty, oil clogged toast machine
'Oh but I can clean it up and it works perfectly'.  So what
(lucky he never reads my blog)

Three light fittings on metal tubes

Two little old plastic tables.  ?

A ceramic light shade.
Very nice.  Was popular with tourists in the 80's
'Where will we put this'
Answer, 'nowhere'

A large, low, heavy wooden coffee table
A daughter took this away.  She has painters at their house who will rub this down, repaint and revamp.  And it shall not return.

And this 'thing' for pulling draft beer. Now there's a real treasure , he says.

Now he's clearing another, basement shed. Old doors, that bread machine that someone gave him because it didn't work, old bags of hardened cement, dried up whitewash.

I could, but 
I won't, go on and on.

My female readers I'm sure will relate. Even I'm stunned by the sheer amount that has built up. And that's only outside the actual house.

Maybe the men will just roll their eyes and wish they too had sheds to fill with treasures.

In our front yard there remains only one washing machine and that has found an owner so can't complain can I.