Christmas in Athens is an exuberant affair, with the city transforming into a sparkling network of fairy lights and Christmas trees. Residents are treated to a sensational display of brilliantly decorated shop-fronts, whilst bars and restaurants celebrate the festive season with style and panache.
As one of Europe’s southernmost cities, Athens benefits from sunshine and warmer weather throughout the winter months, meaning that visitors can enjoy the capital’s many Christmas markets without freezing. Despite a lack of snow, a number of ice skating rinks are installed around Athens during the Christmas period: the largest can be found at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in Paleo Faliro and the Megaron Concert Hall in the city centre.
Greek customs & traditions for Christmas
Of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an array of sugary-delights and visitors are sure to come across bakeries filled to bursting with two traditional delicacies: melomakarona and kourambiethes. Melomakarona are small, sticky cookies made of flour, olive oil and honey. Flavoured with sweet cinnamon, spicy cloves and orange zest, the cookies are drenched in syrup and topped with crunchy nuts. Kourambiethes are simple butter biscuits, similar to shortbread, but made from almonds rather than flour. Flavoured with brandy and drenched in icing sugar, these moorish delicacies are messy but dangerously easy to eat! Be sure to order up a box of both in order to decide on your favourite.
Visitors in the new year will be delighted to learn that, rather than swapping gifts on Christmas Day, Greeks traditionally save their presents until the 1st January, which is also St. Basil’s Day. Like St. Nicholas, St Basil is remembered for his generosity, so his saint’s day is the perfect time for exchanging gifts and warm wishes. The new year is celebrated by smashing a pomegranate on the floor of each home (thought to bring good luck), and cutting the vasilopita (St Basil’s pie). The pie, whose recipe varies from savoury to sweet, hides a coin – whoever receives the slice of pie with the coveted coin is guaranteed good luck for the year ahead!
Escape the summer crowds and enjoy Athens in winter, with a luxury Christmas city break! Life Gallery athens is perfectly located to enjoy both the bustle of the city centre as well as the peaceful surroundings of snow-capped mountains, and welcomes business and leisure travellers throughout the festive season.