For Greeks throughout the world, holiday “kalanda” or carols, are an indispensable part of the season. Songs abound for each of the three major holidays— Christmas, New Year and Epiphany and variations exist from one region of Greece to the other.
Istanbul’s Greeks are no different and although the tradition has felt the impact of an adverse environment against the dwindling native Greek population and an overall fear in the city from a spate of terrorist attacks, the small community insisted again in keeping it alive in 2016.
They call this tradition Kalanda in Pera, the name of the neighborhood that is the heart of the Greek community of the city and home to numerous Greek community schools, churches and cultural institutions.
In years past, students from the Greek schools would take to the streets, visiting Greek businesses and greeting passers-by with messages of Christ’s birth and the coming of St. Basil, with their traditional songs. Students carry chimes, bells and traditional triangles.
This year, security fears prevented the singers from parading openly in the streets— but the tradition did continue. They visited the Greek Consulate and shared their greetings inside with the Greek Consul General and staff of the Greek diplomatic corps, and also visited nursing homes and hospitals operated by the Greek community and tending to the city’s aging Greek population.
This video (from a previous year’s carol singing) documents the beautiful tradition of Istanbul’s Greek Christmas carolers.