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Countdown to Christmas: Athens Embraces the Festive Spirit

The Athens Christmas Tree Lighting in Syntagma Square on Tuesday, November 23. Credit: Kostas Bakoyannis/Facebook

The City of Athens has entered the holiday season early this year, as Greece’s capital celebrated the lighting of the Syntagma Square Christmas Tree on the evening of Tuesday, November 23.

“Athens’ neighborhoods have been decorated early this year, offering joy and optimism,” said the mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, in his Facebook post from the day of the celebration.

This message of optimism is in contrast to last year’s holiday season, which found Greece at the height of the pandemic lockdown. The Christmas tree lighting was dedicated to the frontline heroes of the pandemic.

Bakoyannis went on to say: “The streets and squares are shining from thousands of decorations, creating a festive mood, which we all need so much.”

For those who have visited Syntagma Square during the Christmas season, the city’s decor evokes true joy and the spirit of the season.

Athens Decorated for Christmas

The City of Athens, which takes pride in its annual holiday decorations, has used over 350,000 lights this year, totaling 29.5 kilometers (18.3 miles) in length. Of the thousands of lights, 60,000 are brightly colored, spanning 5 kilometers. The impressive Christmas Tree is from Karpenissi and stands 19 meters (62 feet) tall, according to the City of Athens.

Unlike previous years, when the Christmas tree was lit in early-to-mid December, this year, the festivities began much earlier, thirty-two days prior to Christmas.

The celebratory show in Syntagma Square lit the center of Athens, the Hellenic Parliament and the faces of all those passing by the square, young and old, marveling at the decorations.

“Beams of light turned night into day for a few moments,” the City of Athens stated in its post, which went on to say: “Impressive cinematic images composed an atmosphere of joy and celebration, pleasantly surprising the Athenians who were passing through the most central part of the capital.”

The audiovisual show was designed by the famed light designer, Yiorgos Tellos, who shared his own incredible photos of the evening. The celebration’s musical soundtrack was produced by composer and digital sound artist Stavros Gasparatos.

Christmas Tree Lightning 2021, Syntagma Square. Credit: City of Athens/Facebook

The mayor of Athens was enthusiastically posting about the preparations for this big event earlier in the week.

Celebrating the moment when the final decoration was placed on November 21, he posted: “The last ball has been placed on the tree! In a few days Syntagma Square will be brighter than ever! Countdown to Christmas!”

According to the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA), Bakoyannis was watching the lighting of the tree from a hotel in Syntagma Square while in a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

After watching the lighting, they both ventured to Syntagma Square’s center to see the great Christmas tree from up close.

During this time, Bakoyannis said of the event: “This year, we decided to decorate Athens earlier than ever before, in an effort to leave behind the negative climate generated by the pandemic and bring faster the celebratory atmosphere to the city.”

The motivations behind the early Christmas celebration also aimed at stimulating the Athenian shops, which like most of the world, have suffered losses during the health crisis. While the lighting is held annually in Syntagma Square, the hope is that the holiday atmosphere will extend beyond the city limits, reaching all of Attica and Greece.

Vasilissis Sofias Avenue decorated for Christmas 2021. Credit: Kostas Bakoyannis/Facebook

The decorations are not especially expensive, and they will be reused in the coming years, thus reinforcing the idea of fiscal responsibility during these trying times.

Bakoyannis closed with well wishes and a call for safety: “We call on the Athenians to enjoy the festive atmosphere with their families, but we ask them to respectfully observe the sanitary measures: A condition of celebration is the protection of the health and life of all of us.”


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