The twelve days of Christmas is the time of year that inspires numerous mores and traditions all around Greece.
Some may vary from place to place while others, though similar at their origin, have been adapted and customized, gaining a distinct regional character.
As a result, every place has a rich heritage of its own, local traditions that impart the unique character of said place.
Let’s take a look at some of the unique Christmas and New Year’s traditions of Santorini.
To begin with, Christmas caroling is widespread throughout the country, but there are so many variations in this harmonious tradition.
The carols in Santorini were sung door to door accompanied by violin players and ‘tsampounes’, the iconic bagpipes of Santorini.
On Christmas Eve, every homeowner would hang a sieve on the front door instead of a wreath, in case ‘kalkantzaroi’ – the goblins of Christmas – wanted to come in; they would be compelled to count the holes of the sieve, wasting time till the Christmas bells rung, scaring them away.
It was also imperative for the housewife to have her embroidery finished by Christmas Eve, for fear that the goblins would take it.
On New Year’s Eve, the locals put a carnation bloom on the windowsill for good luck, whereas if a pigeon landed in their yard or garden, then the New Year was certain to be a fruitful and prosperous year.
Young students had to take a ‘kalihera’ to their teacher, an offering of some kind as thank you for their good work, and wishes for the year to come, and the elder were to give more such offerings to all the children of their family.
The most distinctive New Year’s Day treat of Santorini and Oia in particular is the ‘tiganites’ a crisp pancake drizzled with molasses that ‘makes your year sweeter’.
All these Christmas and New Year’s traditions of Santorini are cherished by locals up to today, and it is always a pleasure to witness them first-hand, adding their distinct flair to these festive days.