Christmas and New Year are one of the two most important religious holidays in Greece.
The 12 festive days that take place between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, have been associated with myriad local customs throughout Greece that as a social mission had, in addition to honoring the birth of the godman, to strengthen family ties.
Each place has created over the years its own special traditional Christmas cuisine through which it interpreted the events of the divine birth and the coming of the new year. Below we will travel through each region of Greece uncovering their traditional Christmas dishes.
History of Christmas Traditional dishes
As we can easily imagine, a great way to gather the whole Greek family and verify its ties, was the food and especially the traditional festive table with the necessary Christmas dishes. Today in the big urban centers a turkey dish is almost exclusively on all Christmas tables. However, there are still parts of Greece that keep the traditions alive and eat pork. In ancient times, every house in the Greek countryside (which was usually engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry) had a pig that fed it all year round for its ritual feast sacrifice. Not a single piece of pork was lost, which is easily evidenced by the existence of many pork dishes that were consumed in large concentrations from house to house.
Hams, sausages, smoked steaks, are some of the fine delicacies that have survived over time and that once complimented the edible baskets with gifts given to the poorest members of each community.
Northern Greece – Thrace
“Msoura” is the traditional Christmas food of Melissochori, Thessaloniki. This is a trilogy of pork, beef, and chicken simmered with vegetables and rice in the oven.
“Sarmades” (Pontian cabbage stuffing) is another festive food that has a symbolic meaning as the wrapping of the cabbage leaves symbolizes the nappies of Christ.
Furthermore, in the northern regions of Greece, pork is often served with sauerkraut.
Moreover, in Evros on Christmas Eve, there were nine different foods on the table, uncooked and fasting, symbolizing the abundance of food throughout the year in parallel with the nine months of the Virgin Mary’s pregnancy. According to another version, the nine meals symbolize the places visited by Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Joseph during the persecution of the uncle’s baby by Herod.
The first variation of 9 foods
The second variation of 9 foods
- unleavened pie
- salt and pepper
Finally, “babo” is not missing from any Thracian house: pork with plenty of herbs and spices, which is simmered all night, so that it is ready and warm in the morning, after the divine Christmas service.
The festive table includes cabbage stuffing, pies such as meat pie, spinach pie, milk pie, and sweet pumpkin pie.
In Ioannina, the wild boar salmon and the classic “baklavadakia” have their honor!
In Zagorochoria they make a dessert that looks like pancakes and symbolizes the nappies of Christ.
Thessaly – Central Greece – Euboea
In Trikala on Christmas day, they used to eat grilled pork.
On the island of Euboea, on Christmas night, pieces of pork are baked on the embers, sprinkled with plenty of salt, the so-called “kontosouvli”.
In Central Greece on the day of the holidays, they eat pork with celery, but also chicken soup. Jelly and tripe are also festive appetizers, as are grilled meats.
The protagonist here is the piglet baked in the oven and the meat pie which is a classic Christmas food, for example in Arcadia.
In Sparta, housewives patiently shape the Christmas bun and make it in the shape of a cross. They garnished each end with almonds and walnuts.
From Kefalonia comes the “poutrida”, cooked pork with seasonal vegetables, usually cabbage or cauliflower which were eaten on New Year’s Eve.
In Zakynthos, on Christmas day, they eat beef or chicken with egg and lemon sauce. While on Christmas eve they eat Christmas bread which is like a loaf of bread with oil, wine, anise, and walnuts.
On the island of Lefkada, rooster or beef spaghetti is common.
In Kythira, some people still cook the fasting beans stew with many onions.
In Rhodes, the “dolmadakia”, are on every Christmas festive table, while on the other islands, grilled pork and turkey are a must.
Aegean Islands – Cyclades – Other Islands
In Samos on Christmas day, they eat boiled pork with lemon.
On the island of Syros, a tradition wants them to eat cauliflower or broccoli and fish on Christmas Eve.
In Mytilene, they make flat, sweet pies with walnut. “Amygdalota” and dips sweeten the festive table on all the islands.
In Poros pork with celery was the island version of the Christmas table.
In Lassithi, on Christmas day they eat fried liver. At the Christmas table, there is pork made in the wood oven with lemon leaves, but in the following days, the meat is not missing. Sausages, “apaki”, “siglino”, and turkey are favorite Christmas foods throughout the island.
In Sfakia, in addition to the well-known Sfakian pies with honey and mizithra, we also find the pork groups or groups based on the intestines of the pig.
We hope you loved our culinary itinerary through Greece! To create your own festive Christmas itinerary, contact one of our expert travel designers! Happy Holidays!