This Christmas will be our very first one as a married couple, and we will be spending it just the 2 of us (and Meli) here in Lesvos. We wanted to make a trip to see V’s parents, but there was a small and unfortunate ship accident (involving an oil spill). And all the boat routes were cancelled until further notice.
So… we will begin our own traditions.
Today has been very relaxing, we slept in (until 8am) and then went for some grocery shopping, since everything will be closed the next few days. This afternoon we went for a long walk with Meli, the weather was delightfully in the low 70′s, and since Meli decided to play in the mud, she got a Christmas Eve bath! Tonight, we plan to make popcorn and/or hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie! Sounds pretty great considering we are miles apart from our friends and family who we wish we could be near.
As we were shopping this morning, we saw many eager kids racing from shop to shop, as if it were a competition. It brought a smile to my face to see children still caroling. I even saw quite a few of my students, here are a few of them below.
Christmas here in Greece is still very much about the birth of Christ Jesus and full of spiritual meaning, rather than being so commercialized. Actually, very few people decorate their houses with much more than a single strand of lights on the outside and a tree on the inside (could also be from the crisis too I suppose). In comparison to the States, there are hardly any fat Santas in a red suites running around or even depicted, there are some but it is not the majority.
Christmas is also a time of fasting from meats (beginning Nov. 15) for those who choose to participate, and on Christmas day the whole family gets together and enjoy a huge feast in celebration of Christ’s birth! A traditional dinner includes with turkey or pork and of course tzatziki – the cucumber, yogurt dip.
The one thing that every single house in Greece is sure to have around Christmas time are the popular Christmas cookies or sweets. There are two traditional cookies that are made only around Christmas time and you can find them easier than Waldo in every shop or home you enter. The first is called kourabiedes, these are almond shortbread cookies dusted in very fine powdered sugar. Here is some we were given:
The other “rival” Christmas cookie is called Melomakarona. They are a cinnamon and orange infused cookie lightly soaked in syrup and topped with crushed walnuts. Click HERE to see my food blog where I made some of my own. They are very unique cookie and if made properly, a very delicious sweet!
The most drastic difference I would argue is that Christmas Day (whether it is Sunday or not) always begins with a church service. Now. I am sure you are thinking that this doesn’t sound that different, but I am sure you will reconsider when I tell you what time the service begins.
10:00 am? Nope, the service will have already been finished by then for 2 hours.
8:00 am? Nope, the service will just be coming to a close.
Yep, that is right…. Christmas service starts at 5:00 AM!!!!!!!!! Don’t get me wrong, I am totally not complaining, the LEAST I can do for Jesus is to wake up at 5am on Christmas morning and celebrate the birth of our Lord! But can you imagine if this was the case in the States? I don’t even think that if coffee and doughnuts were promised that many people would come; ok, well maybe if they were Krispy Kreme!
One word – dedication!
Most of the dedication will be coming from people over the age of 75, but we are planning on bring the average down with our attendance as well. It will be a specially liturgy with many verses read about the birth of Christ and the Virgin Mary, many hymns will be sung attesting the day that the Lord God was made flesh and came down to Earth. This is a huge and joyful celebration for all!!!!