Although Greece is known internationally as a top summertime destination, the Mediterranean country is also quite festive during the winter. Greece is steeped in fascinating holiday traditions, with its Christmas carols, or kalanda, being some of the most heartwarming seasonal customs.
Every year, Greeks anxiously await Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and January 5, the day before the Epiphany, when children go house to house singing Greek carols, hoping to receive coins from the families they sing for.
This sweet tradition is an iconic part of the Christmas season, as children bring wishes of happiness, health, and good luck to their neighbors while they sing the traditional carols and play the triangle.
While the custom of children singing Christmas carols has been present in Greece since the country’s adoption of Christianity, it also has ancient Greek roots. In antiquity, children would sing songs to Dionysus, offering their neighbors an olive branch, a symbol of peace and prosperity.
Like food, costume, and dance, each region of Greece has their own, distinct Christmas carols. These songs often reflect local dialects, history, and musical flair. Many carols are also dedicated to the New Year, not just Christmas, and they often have religious themes, as well as messages of hope and happiness.
Let’s take a musical tour around Greece and hear some of the different carols which will lift our spirits at this darkest time of the year.