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Greek Christmas traditions: Kalanda: Carol singing

Painting by Nikiphoros Lytras Kalanda 1872 This painting is used for the most popular Greek Christmas card.
Painting by Nikiphoros Lytras Kalanda 1872
This painting is used for the most popular of Greek Christmas cards.

Greek children, go out carol singing, on three specific days over Christmas:

Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and the Eve of Epiphany (5th January)

They go singing, door to door, early in the morning; very early !

Many times, have I had to open the door to them, before eight o clock , still in my dressing gown.

They knock on the door, shouting "Na ta poume?" (Shall we say it ), meaning "Shall we sing?",

 The singing is accompanied by a triangle, just randomly rattled, no tune at all!


Greek carol singing from another era
Greek carol singing from another era

Sometimes, following an old Greek tradition, they may be carrying a decorated model boat.

A decorated and illuminated boat, is a traditional Greek symbol of Christmas, along with the Christmas tree.

A boat, decorated, for Greek Christmas
A boat, decorated, for Greek Christmas

Greek carol singers
Greek carol singers

The Greek word for carol is Kalanda, it comes from the Latin: the first day of the month.

Usually, you get to hear, just one song.

This is the English translation of it:

Good evening noblemen
If this is your will,
Christ’s holy birth
May I sing in your noble house
Christ is being born today
In the town of Bethlehem
Heavens rejoice
All of nature is happy.

Inside the cave (He) is being born
In a manger for horses
The King of all the universe
The Creator of everything.
A crowd of angels are singing,
“Ossana in excelsis”,
And holly is
The faith of the shepherds.

From Persia three magi arrive
With their gifts
A bright star shows them the way
Without any delay.

In this house we have come
May no stone ever crack
And the landlord
May live for many years.

Listen to this lovely version of it, and more Greek Christmas songs below.



After knocking on doors and singing the Kalanda around their neighborhoods, the children often go into  town, and sing  outside the shops, hoping for a few extra Euros.

 My children were very sly when they went carol singing (Encouraged by MGG, My Greek God, I might add)

They only went to family friend's and relative's houses, even if it meant quite a trek, here they were sure of a good reward!

The philosophy here being:

 Good friends and relatives, would be too embarrassed to give nothing, or only a few bits of change.

They knew that MGG would later ask them:

 "How much did uncle Yiannis give you?"

I am ashamed to tell you, that, their philosophy worked! (Or, should I say: MGG's philosophy?)

The cash they collected with their carol singing, was, an embarrassingly large amount!

On Christmas Eve, I shall be prepared to be up early, with a stack of Euros at hand.

More Greek Christmas Ttraditions

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