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Christmas Traditions in Crete

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Christmas is always associated with solemn, quiet mood that is coupled with celebrations throughout the world. In Crete, the holiday season begins with the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th and locals normally exchange presents all the way to the Feast of Epiphany which is marked on the 6th of January when the holiday comes to an end.

On the Eve of the Christmas and the New Year, children move from one house to the other singing the equivalent of carols, called Kalanda in Greek. The carols are meant to be a blessing to the houses and the songs are normally accompanied by little clay drums and small metal triangles. Residents give dried fruits and sweets to the children.

Cretans instead of turkey -which is the most popular Christmas dish in Greece, opt instead for pork. Tradition has it that the pig is slaughtered the day before Christmas, and served for Christmas dinner, with many parts of it turned into sausages, ham and a special Cretan variety called “Apaki”, which are all served the following days. Also there is a tradition of baking a special Christmas bread known as Christopsomo. The bread is light, slightly sweet and buttery and is normally infused with orange, cinnamon and cloves, all which are favorite flavors for Christmas. As you celebrate Christmas in Crete, you should be on the lookout for this round bread decorated on top with a byzantine cross which is flavored with aniseed while walnuts are used to swirl the ends of the cross.

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