Crisis, Greece, people turn to Christmas traditions

To overcome anger and sadness

22 December, 16:24

    Orthodox believers attend an Orthodox Christmas Mass [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20110106 ] Orthodox believers attend an Orthodox Christmas Mass [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20110106 ]

    (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, DEC 22 - While Christians all over the world are preparing to celebrate Christmas and the new year, in Greece the overwhelming mood is one of anger, sadness and lingering pessimism. The front titles of Sunday's newspapers are emblematic in this respect: for To Vima (centre-left) " Greece is drowning in mud and decadence"; Rizospastis (official organ of the Communist party of Greece) writes that, in Greece, one lives "Amid rot, intimidations and illusions". Kathimerini (centre-right) says "Towards elections in a sick climate"; for Ethnos (centre-left) the uncertainty in the country is reminiscent to the scenes of "Fog". For Avghì (Sunrise, official organ of Syriza, the major opposition party) there must be a"Democratic solution against corruption and intrigue".

    To Greeks of an old age, the prevailing socio-economic predicament brings back memories dating to the Second World War and German occupation: despair and daily struggle for survival. However, despite the situation, even Greeks - according to their varying financial possibilities - are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Cities and villages have been dressed up for the occasion and people are keen to rediscover old and traditional customs to forget their daily tribulations, at least for a few days. From Christmas eve until the Epifany, a time known as "Dodecaimero" (the Twelve Days), as professor of Popular Traditions, Dimitris Loukatos, writes in his book "Christmas Customs" every Greek village goes back to ancient ways followed in most of the country albeit small differences. The belief in "Kalikanzari"(devils ) is one of the most enduring customs. According to the tradition, during the Dodecaimero the devils, envious of humans and their family-life, become kings of the night and the countryside. They lurk around houses and rejoice when they manage to infect people's clothes or food. On the island of Cefalonia, Kalikanzari are called "paganà", a noun that according to Loukatos is closely linked to paganism and idolatry. Here, on Christmas night, all homes once lit the Dodecaimero fire which lasted until the Epifany, while the cross was traced with a piece of coal on doors and windows to keep away the "paganà". One of the most common traditions in Greece is "Ta Kalanta" (the first days of the months) well wishing tales and rhymes of religious content sang during Christmas, New Year and on January 6 to announce the birth of Jesus Christ, the arrival of the New Year and the Epifany. Their name comes from the January Kalante, the first days of January, when family members and friends would visit each other and exchange simple gifts such as honey, dried figs, dates and small coins.

    "At a time in which calendars and newspapers did not announce the Great Festivities - writes Loukatos - people anticipated the voices of children singing "Today Jesus is born" (for Christmas day), "Today comes Agios Vassilios" (Father Christmas, on New Year's eve) and "Today is the day of the Light" (for the Epifany l'Epifania). The preparation of "the Bread of Jesus" (Cristopsomo)is another tradition present in various regions of the country. According to Loukatos this custom boasts three very important folkloric elements: the fact that it is being reiterated Christmas after Christmas, the characteristic offering and the accurate technique following which it is made. In some regions, such as on the island of Crete, preparations for the Bread of Jesus is a sacred and purely Christian tradition taking a proud place at the Christams table and nurturing the family for the year to come. Only the best flour and expensive ingredients like rosewater, honey, sesame, cinammon and cloves are chosen for the batter of this special bread. The women of the house sit around a table where the batter is lying and sing religious hymns while they wait for it to rise. When the batter is ready, a cross-shaped incision, symbolizing fertility, is made at the centre of the bread. At last, all family members can sit around the table and the head of the family will bless the Bread of Jesus, cut it and distribute it just like Jesus did with his apostles as a reminder of the Holy Communion.

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved

    Business opportunities

    The information system of business
    opportunities abroad

    News from Mediterranean