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 kaikï (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.
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.