Traditional Christmas dishes from Greece

In Greece, the celebration of Christmas is one of the most important religious festivals! Christmas, beyond the matter of religion, is deeply associated with the family and eating, as these festive days will bring near the family!

Over the years the traditional customs of eating during Christmas in Greece have been combined with international influences from around the world!

In Greece during Christmas time there are prepared and consumed food and sweets, that are coming through customs, traditions and way of life and survival in older years, some of them even with symbolic meaning!

Unlike Western Countries where they eat Turkeys. In Greece, one of the most important and common custom is the slaughtering of pigs, which includes a range of traditional dishes!

melomakarona
Melomakarona is a typical cookie sweet served in Greece during Christmas

Apart from the known and traditional dishes and desserts such as turkey and pork, pies and classic melomakarona pastries, buns, folds,baklava, kantaifi and cake every place has its own culinary tradition! In the following blog we are going to look some of them and divide them by geographical continents in the country.

Christmas Food in Thrace

Typically we are talking about the Western part of the geographically region called Thrace. Is on the top right of the map in Greece and close to the borders with Bulgaria and Turkey.  Really nice place to visit with an abundance of natural beauty.

  • The Msoura is the traditional Christmas meal of Melissochori, it is a trilogy of pork, beef and Chicken braised with vegetables and rice in the oven.
Mpampo: "Pork sausage from Thrace"
Mpampo: “Pork sausage from Thrace”
  • In Thrace bambo is really famous at this time of the year. Pork sausage with lots of herbs and spices, which simmered all night in order to be ready and warm in the morning, after Christmas function in church
  • .The pontic cabbage (lachanodolmades) is another festive food that has symbolic importance as the wrapping of cabbage leaves symbolize the infancy of Christ.
  • In the northern regions of Greece, pork often served with sauerkraut. While in the northern east part of Greece, Evros , in Christmas Eve, on the table there are nine different dishes, symbolizing the abundance and variety of food all year round.Also honey, wine, apple pie are not missing from anyone’s table and are all of them are symbolic!

Christmas in Epirus

Epirus, the North-West part of Greece with Part of Pindus Mountains. It borders the regions of West Macedonia and Thessaly to the east, West Greece to the south, the Ionian Sea and Ionian Islands to the west and Albania to the north

Spargana
Spargana from Zagorochoria
  • The holiday table includes again cabbage rolls.
  • A variety of Pies is being served also in many places. So meat pie, milk pie and sweet pumpkin are all populas in Epirus. Obviously, and melomakarouna  , as they call the Epirus.
  • In Ioannina the boar and the classic baklava sweet are very popular at those days.!
  • Also in Zagorochoria they make the “spargana”, a sweet-like pancakes.

Traditional Christmas in Macedonia

Macedonia, famous for Alexander the Great and his great kingdom, is the geographical area in Northern Greece with Thessaloniki as the capital of the region.  With influences coming from a variety of regions you can surely find something different everywhere. 

  • Basic food for every table is the bread being called Christopsomo (christs bread) which is made the previous day from thin flower, honey, sesame, cinamon and cloves. Cities, compete on which one will make the biggest christopsomo which then it is shared to the people.
  • Wild Boar, stuffed cabbage leaves , chicken soup, fried pork and pickles are some of the traditional food you can find almost everywhere. 
  • Women are not allowed to clean the table when everyone is finished and they do it the next day.  The custom says that Christ will also come in to eat so they must leave everything for him and wait.  

Central Greece and Evia

The main part of Greece with the capital and the second biggest Island of Greece, Evia. It is one of the most popular as it is closest to the capital and easier to get around with. Still it has a lot of natural beauty and traditional customs waiting to be discovered. 

  • Pork and “gourounochara” are very popular and all festive dishes that are made are based on the pork!
  • Women then try to make the “Lipa” and “batter”.The various parts of the pig are going for different foods such as sausage, for thick, for “paspala”.
  • Trikala on Christmas Day, used to eat together “gournada” which is a kind of roast pork. During the night of Christmas they bake pieces of pork in cinder, sprinkled with lots of salt.
  • In Central Greece the day of the holiday season eating pork with celery, and chicken soup, as well as the stuffed turkey.
  • In previous years they made the “mpampes”, which was boiled colon and stuffed with liver, spleen, herbs and spices.
    The thick and tripe soup are also festive dishes like grilled meat.
  • The Christmas cake and pies are standards on holiday table.
  • Melomakarona, folds, cake, galaktoboureko, cake and buns are sweet feast.

Christmas in Peloponnese

The southern, land based, part of Greece. Again, full of tradition, the home of Spartans and the place where the Greek revolution started against the Ottomans in 1821 to form the modern Greek state. Increasingly popular in the last few years it has customs and tradition that simply wont fit in one article

  • Again suckling pig roasted in the oven is the main dish over here.The meat pie is a traditional Christmas dish in Arcadia city.
  • Kneading the Christmas coil is a whole ritual!In Sparta, the housewives knead the cake with patience which they make cross-shaped and not round. Each edge decorate with almonds and walnuts.
  • In Mani ‘Lalagia “or” tiganides “was the favorite Christmas sweet like donuts and folds.


Ionian Islands 

The Ionian Islands are the group of islands in the Western part of Greece, in the …Ionian Sea. They consist of 7 islands with Corfu being the biggest. Due to there geographical location the culture is heavily affected by Italy. 

  • In Kefalonia (pictured) “poutrida” is pork with “kavole” or “Yob” ie cauliflower or cabbage. 
  • Cock or beef pasta typical of Lefkada.
  • Also they make the coil, a type of bread and the oil pie.

Christmas in Dodecanissa 

Again Dodecanisa is another group of Islands on the Western-South part of Greece in the Agean sea. There name means “Twelve Islands” and as  you can imagine, the group is of twelve islands.  Further away from the main land, they are more difficult to reach by the boat, but for those that dare they hold some really well kept secrets.  

The traditional “Giaprakia”
  • Rhodes necessarily the festive table serves the “giaprakia” vine.
  • In Samos they eat pig slaughter and thick. The thich was boiled pork with lemon, which clot because of the fat and they ate on Christmas Day. 
  • In Syros a custom wants to eat cauliflower or broccoli and fish on Christmas Eve.
  • In Mytilini they make platseda, sweet pies with nut.
  • Almond and folds sweeten all islands festive table.

Christmas food in Crete

The biggest island in Greece and the most famous for many reason. A lot of history, many customs, and some of the most hospitable people in Greece. You will need a lot of days to run around Crete and meet there traditions but it is truly a significant experience if you ever do. 

  • After church they handle meat, wine and bagel. While on Lassithi during Christmas Day they eat fried liver.
  • The Christmas table in Crete has the pork as a main focus again. You will surely find there pork in the oven with lemon leaves in most of the houses.
  • Sausages, Apakia , “syglino” and the “tsigarides” as well as the turkey are favorite Christmas dishes.
  • The Christopsomo , the Yoghurt pie, and local pies which may differ around the villages.

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