Greek Santa Claus (A & L: http://www.aandlhome.com/servlet/-strse-3680/Greece-Santa-Glass-Chrstmas/Detail)
After a period of impetuous weather,
suddenly the sun appeared for a few days causing bright clear views, where
mountain and hilltops strongly contrasted against a cobalt blue sky. These are
the beautiful winter days where dew dresses the trees in glistening coats and
when amidst the pine trees there is the pure scent of Christmas trees.
There are quite extended pinewoods
on Lesvos and you may be thinking that those pine trees would end up in Greek
homes as a Christmas tree. But let’s face it: pine trees are not fir trees,
which, with their close knit branches, are excellent trees for Christmas. Fir
trees are rare on the island and the tradition of having a decorated Christmas
tree is not widely known in Greece and has competition from another traditional
Christmas decoration: the Christmas Boat (karavaki).
The Christmas Tree in Greece was
introduced by the from Bavaria native Greek King Otto, who had his palace in
1833 decorated with fir trees. Greeks never have been too enthusiastic about
their kings (The last King had officially to throw down his sceptre in 1973)
and that may be a reason why there are not too many songs about the Christmas
tree in Greece. The sole song that I found about this so praised tree of the Christmas
Season is a heavy but also funny hardrock version of O, Tannenbaum (O, Christmas Tree) from Plokami tou Karcharia: O peuko.
The Christmas Boat has a much longer
history in Greece. It is said that it is the boat that brought Dionysus in
December, the month where in ancient times this God of parties and wine was
much celebrated. Also Saint Nicholas has his much celebrated name day in
December (December 5). This bishop, originally coming from Antalya (Turkey), is
now the patron saint of seafarers and his ship is a popular symbol. Decorating
the Christmas Boat may also derive from a very simple tradition: when the
sailors (and there are many in Greece) returned home for Christmas their wife
and children decorated a little boat to welcome him.
For hundreds of years on Chrismas
Eve children go around the Greek villages to sing Christmas carols, kálanda, for the more prosperous people,
for which they are rewarded with dried fruit, sweets and – nowadays – with
money. Along with instruments like a triangle or drum, they carry a little
wooden ship. There might have been a candle in the boat to light the way, or it
was used as storage for the sweet they got.
It is said that these Greek
Christmas carols were already being sung in Homeric times (then they were
to celebrate Dionysus’ arrival by boat. Nowadays the kálanda are about Christmas, New Year or
Epiphany (January 6). Here is a kálanda from Mytilini, not performed by children but a
choir of adults, accompanied by beautiful instrumental music: Κάλαντα Μυτιλήνης – Καππαδοκίας. The next singer may have been in a hurry, waiting
for a glass of ouzo, giving it an extra dimension (including a beautiful
picture of children singing a kálanda):Κάλαντα Χριστουγέννων από τη Λέσβο. These songs do not
always have to be sung so quickly, listen to the gentlemen from Kalloni who are
not in a rush singingΚαλαντα πρωτοχρονιας ‘Καλλονησ Λεσβου’.
Realizing that in the sunny Greek Islands you can enjoy a warm sun
outside until deep into wintertime, it may be difficult to imagine that there
are also Greeks (and me) who are dreaming of a White Christmas (Χριστούγεννα λευκά), just like DakisandJorgos Stafanakis.
however not only sing Christmas covers but have their own Christmas songs. For
example Stergios Kottas who uses his attractive smoky voice for a real Greek
Christmas Tearjerker:Αυτα τα χριστουγεννα. Fifos Delivorias
sings his Christmas song like all his other ones: when you do not understand
the text you may even not be aware it is a Christmas song: Χριστούγεννα. Like in all other
countries, also in Greece, you have these totally trashy songs like the one
from Effi Sarri who singsXristoygenna protoxronia: not only the song but also the
video is huge Christmas-trash. Last but not least, a real swinging Greek hiphop
song: Imiskoubia with Τα Χριστούγεννα σημαίνουν...
I love Christmas
music, I probably got that from my brother who is a seriouscollector of Christmas songs. Each year
he gives me a new Christmas-CD with his newest finds, containing beautiful,
crazy or humorous covers and new songs. Listening to Christmas songs not only
makes you sentimental, but can be hugely entertaining. When you are done with
all those famous songs, do something different! Here are some Greek versions
that may make you laugh: a radio broadcast of the Christmas hitAll I want for Christmas is you.
Obviously Last Christmas by Wham is also was
pretty popular in Greece. The first parody is a real Greek Christmas Shepherd
Blues about a shepherd who could no longer pay his taxes and the government
took his sheep away, so he was all alone for Christmas: Pindo’s nightingale. Also HipHopcrecy made a very merry and swishing song
out of Wham’s Christmas hit: LaST ChriStMaS, a modern fairy tale with an