This is when the first snows of winter transform mountain villages into a scene fit for a Christmas card: icing sugar-dusted fir trees; crisp, clear air; smoke wafting gently from chimney tops from the roaring log fires in every hearth; the smell of sweetmeats and pastries; rosy faces lit up in anticipation of the coming festivities and time-honoured customs. And on top of this, the mild winter in Greece offers generous helpings of sunshine to accompany country walks and add that extra touch of enjoyment to the celebrations in cities, villages and islands all over Greece.
Athens always has a grand welcome in store at Christmas-time. The illuminated central squares and streets ring with music and merriment and all corners of the city – hotels, shops, cafes and restaurants – are bedecked with thousands of twinkling fairy lights. Syntagma Square is the heart of the celebrations, with its gleaming Christmas tree, confectionary stalls and numerous events putting the whole city into the holiday mood.
It’s a time of year when there are countless opportunities for recreation and entertainment in cultural hubs like Technopolis and other such venues. Theatrical performances, music concerts, outdoor events, charity bazaars and, of course, the famous Athenian nightlife – whatever you choose, it will have that special Christmas sparkle.
Patras becomes a children’s paradise at Christmas. Your little ones will adore the fairytale village that is now a seasonal fixture at the port. Weaving a little Christmas magic with all their favourite stories, it makes an irresistible festive treat.
Hopping on the famous rack-and-pinion railway, walking the town’s alleyways while taking great refreshing gulps of mountain air, visiting the Monastery of Agia Lavra and, of course, skiing or riding snowmobiles down the slopes of Helmos are just a few of the things you can do in this historic town during the winter.
Pelion enthrals its visitors with its heavenly beauty, whatever the time of year and Christmas is no exception. It only takes a few snowflakes to settle to make the perfect winter wonderland. Take a winter stroll through gorgeous villages and forests so dense the sun rays can’t penetrate them. Finally, don’t forget to make some time for fun and games in the snow at the ski centre here.
Elati – Pertouli
Fir trees, snow-covered meadows, the scent of fireplaces, a hot brew in a chalet or elegant cafe, sleigh rides at the ski centre of Pertouli… If there’s an area of Greece whose winter atmosphere can rival that of the Alps, this is it.
It’s worth combining your stay with a visit to a special Christmas fun-park in Trikala, the Mill of the Elves. Definitely a major winter highlight for the city, it consists of various rides, children’s activities and artistic events. It goes without saying that it all revolves around Santa’s workshop. Even now the elves will be beavering away to make the story of this Christmas as transfixing for Mum and Dad as it is for the kids.
You’ll get the feeling here that the lake is practically untouched by human hand and, as a veil of white mist swirls up from its waters, this mysterious and captivating location makes an ideal romantic Christmas retreat. Definitely for lovers of pristine nature and those who hanker after more traditional ways of living.
Traditional and unpretentious, mountainous Metsovo enchants its visitors at Christmas with its authentic atmosphere and copious amounts of the white fluffy stuff!
Illuminations twinkle through the misty air; wonderful aromas have you yearning for all the Christmas treats; the traditional decorated ship takes pride of place in Aristotelous square; groups of friends gallivant around town in high spirits and restaurants overflow with customers. Thessaloniki pulls out all the stops at this most wonderful time of the year. Everyone and everything skips to the festive beat in Greece’s second city and a relaxed, joyful demeanour will unlock all the magic for you.
Agios Athanasios – Kaimaktsalan
In Agios Athanasios, the beautiful village with its buildings of typical Macedonian style, you can celebrate Christmas in a snowy landscape of astounding beauty. And, naturally, heading up to Kaimaktsalan ski centre is a must if you don’t want to miss all the fun on the slopes.
Oniroupoli - The Dream town of Drama
Christmas is coming and Santa’s in charge! In the central square the northern Greek town of Drama, he’s taken up temporary residence in a village straight out of your children’s sweetest dreams. And he’s brought his elves along to liven things up just in time for the big day.
Christmas customs in Greece
On Christmas and New Year’s Eve, up and down the country, neighbourhoods harken to the voices of children singing carols, heralding the happy news of Christ’s birth.
In Greek homes, a flurry of baking means that delicious aromas hang permanently in the air. The Christopsomo, blessed bread, is prepared for Christmas and Vasilopita, a special pie with a lucky coin hidden inside, for New Year’s Day. And no dining room would be complete without a bowl of icing-sugar dusted kourambies and honey-and-orange scented melomakarona biscuits, traditional Christmas treats.
Finally, what better way to invoke the season’s spirit than watching children hanging baubles on the tree and then shrieking with delight when the lights are turned on for the first time. It has been known for some Greek families to get their tree up and decorated by the middle of November, such is their enthusiasm to get the celebrations underway.