Christmas in Greece is a special and unique experience. The country has adapted most of the Western traditions of the holiday, including sparkling lights, decorated trees, “winter” villages and all of the typical decorations you’ll find practically everywhere that celebrates the holiday.
Certain locales of Greece still hold on to pre-Christian pagan traditions that have been part of society for thousands of years, while others have created new traditions blending the old with the new.
Here are five of our favorite Christmas celebrations from throughout Greece.
THE FLORINA FIRES
Every year in Florina, on Christmas Eve, dozens of large fires are lit and celebrations take place around them. In antiquity, the firers were worship to the sun god, for it was the sun that fueled all fires and it was out of deviation to him. Over time, the custom has been adapted to represent the fires that guided the Three Wise Men to the birth place of Jesus.
VOLOS CHRISTMAS LANTERNS
A similar tradition of light exists in the central Greek town of Volos, where people gather along the shore and release thousands of “fanaria” or heat-propelled lanterns into the sky.
The lanterns represent people’s Christmas wishes and are released into the sky on December 26th with hopes that the wishes will reach the sky and will be fulfilled.
PARGA’S STAND UP SURFING SANTAS
In the town of Parga, stand up surfing santa clauses arrived in the harbor to spread holiday cheer. The region is known for its stand up surfing and the local organizers decided to mix the local sport with some holiday fun.
7,000 CRETAN SANTAS
For five years, residents of Hania in Western Crete have been dressing as Santa Claus and parading in the annual Santa Run. This year more than 7,000 people took part in the fun, raising money for a local children’s shelter.
SHIPS OF CHIOS
Most of Greece’s biggest ship owning families hail from Chios and Christmas traditions reflect this fact. Throughout the island, small ships are decorated with holiday decorations and lights and are on display throughout the holiday season.