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Christmas is a very important festival in Greece and traditionally food plays a major role. This is a good chance for families to come together over the decorated table and try Christmas food prepared by the housewife. The traditional Christmas celebration lasts for 13 days, from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6th, the day when the baptism of Jesus Christ is symbolically celebrated.
In this time period, there are many chances for eating together in the Greek families, such as on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day, on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day. All houses are decorated with Christmas tree and other decorations, while Christmas food in Greece includes very special recipes.
Saint Basil’s Cake (Vassilopita)
The top of all Christmas food in Greece is Saint Basil’s Cake, called Vasilopita. This is a cake that is cut right after the coming of the New Year, which actually means a little after midnight, or at the lunch of New Year’s Day. The special thing about vasilopita is that it is baked with a coin inside. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake is expected to have much luck for the entire coming year. There are many recipes to bake a vasilopita. The most traditional recipes include pomegranate, almonds, raisins, while most modern recipes may even include yogurt or ginger.
A traditional Christmas food in Greece is Christ’s Bread, or else “christopsomo”. It is prepared on Christmas Eve and it is eaten at the lunch of Christmas day. This is a round bread made with more special ingredients, such as raisins, aniseed, walnuts or almonds, etc. A cross is shaped on the bread in its simplest form, while housewives also create other nice designs, such as the sun, the moon or sheep. At the four edges of the cross, they put walnuts or olives.
The Christmas turkey
Turkey is a relatively new Christmas food in Greece. It is cooked in the oven, on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. Until a couple of decades ago, Christmas meat was usually lamb or pork, but today most housewives cook a turkey, probably affected by western cultures. The Christmas turkey is stuffed with rice, walnuts, raisins, chestnuts and mincemeat or giblets.
Christmas food in Greece could not miss the sweets. The most typical Greek Christmas sweets are the syrup sweets, including baklava, kataifi, galaktoboureko and walnut pie (karydopita). Of course, very popular Christmas sweets are kourabiedes and melomakarona. Kourabiedes are actually buttered almond cookies with powdered sugar, while melomakarona is honey cookies with walnuts. If you come to Greece during the Christmas period, you will see these two Christmas sweets in all pastries, cafeterias, and houses.