Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

If you like it, why not share it? Thanks!

Greek Christmas Customs & Traditions: Christmas Boat Karavaki



Traditional Greek Christmas boat
Traditional Greek Christmas boat

The practice of decorating sailing boats with Christmas lights, a fabulous Greek Christmas tradition, is making a comeback.

Christmas boat
Christmas boat

Florina

Christmas "Viallage" Drama
Christmas "Village" Drama

Northern Greece

More often than not, these Christmas boats are seen on the islands, where the habit originated, but slowly, they are making their way to the mainland.


Christmas Boat  Skiathos Photo, Taxi- George Kordelas
Christmas Boat

Skiathos

Photo, Taxi- George Kordelas

Christmas Boat  Naxos   Photo, Kostas Symeonoglou
Christmas Boat

Naxos

 Photo, Kostas Symeonoglou

Christmas Boat  Crete
Christmas Boat

Crete
Greece is a nation of sailors, where men folk are often away from hearth and home, for long stretches at a time.

The story goes like this; long, long ago, women of the Greek islands, during the dark winter months of ferocious, stormy and dangerous seas, spent their days fretting over fathers, husbands and sons, battling with the waves, praying for their safe return.


"Ship in a storm"  Henry Ossawa Tanner
"Ship in a storm"

Henry Ossawa Tanner

On spotting the ships returning to harbour, the women would joyfully rush home to celebrate, by decorating small wooden boats, as a welcome to the weary seafarers.

The boats were arranged on the floor, or next to the fire, with their bows pointing inwards, symbolising the homeward journey.

Greek Christmas Boat
Greek Christmas Boat

An alternative explanation to the decorated boats, has Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of Sailors, playing a part in the origin of this wonderful, Greek Christmas tradition.

Boats are decorated, in Saint Nicholas’s honour, as a sort of insurance for bringing the salty sea dogs into port safely.


Saint Nicholas  Patron Saint of Sailors
Saint Nicholas

Patron Saint of Sailors

As the feast Day of Saint Nicholas takes place on 6th December, this is the day boats are decorated, and are displayed until 6th January, Epiphany. 

On Christmas Eve, Greek children would visit neighbours to sing carols; ( Kalanada in Greek), accompanied by the triangle.

Greek carol singers (Kalanda)  Asia Minor
Greek carol singers (Kalanda)

Asia Minor

"Ta Kalanda"  Syros
"Ta Kalanda"

Syros

Greek carol singers  Crete
Greek carol singers

Crete

Greek Christmas carol singers
Greek Christmas carol singers

Carrying the traditional Christmas boat

Greek "Kalanda" singers  1950s
Greek "Kalanda" singers

1950s

Vintage Greek Christmas card  Carol singers with traditional Christmas boat
Vintage Greek Christmas card

Carol singers with traditional Christmas boat

The carol singers would carry with them, small wooden or paper boats, which they had lovingly been preparing, in the lead up to Christmas, the neighbours would then reward the children by placing treats, such as cakes or candy, into their little boats.

Kalanda, Greek Christmas carols
Kalanda, Greek Christmas carols

A much older tradition has gold coins or gold being placed in boats, could this tie in with the fact, that one of the seven symbols of Saint Nicholas is gold coins?

Christmas gold coins
Christmas gold coins

In 1833, King Otto of Bavaria, decorated the first Christmas tree in Greece and from then on, the Christmas tree was to be seen, standing along side a decorated boat.

King Otto of Greece  Prince Otto Freidrich Ludwig of Bavaria  1815-1867
King Otto of Greece

Prince Otto Freidrich Ludwig of Bavaria

1815-1867
When I first came to Greece in 1977, these beautiful boats were a quite common sight at Christmas time, seen in homes, on the street and in tavernas.

Decorative traditional Christmas boat
Decorative traditional Christmas boat

Greek Christmas Boat
Greek Christmas Boat

As the years passed and European Christmas became more familiar to Greeks, through travel, television, cinema and magazines, and then, of course, commercialism, the pretty boats took a back seat to the Christmas tree.

I’m happy to say;

 “They are back!”

Thessaloniki, Greece’s capital of the North, was the first large city, in 1999, to display a huge decorated boat at Christmas, in Aristotelous Square, decked out in blue and white twinkling lights, the colours of the Greek flag.

Traditional Greek Christmas Boat  Aristotelous Square, Thessaloniki.
Traditional Greek Christmas Boat

Aristotelous Square, Thessaloniki.

It took a few years, but, Christmas 2013, saw Athens following Thessaloniki’s example by erecting an amazing boat, in Syntagma Square, in front of the Greek parliament building.

Traditional Greek Christmas Boat  Syntagma Square Athens 2014
Traditional Greek Christmas Boat

Syntagma Square Athens 2014

Kostas, owner of  the very popular taverna, Maistrali, keeps this tradition going in Loutraki.

 It’s a joy to behold, whilst taking an evening stroll along the beach front, at this most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas Boat  Maistrali Taverna Loutraki  Photo, Kostas Vackouftsis.
Christmas Boat

Maistrali Taverna Loutraki

Photo, Kostas Vackouftsis.
My Amazon Greek Christmas picks for you:

Greek Christmas Ornaments
Greek Christmas Ornaments
Jim Shore for Enesco Heartwood Creek Greek Santa Figurine, 7-Inch

If you like it, why not share it ?...Thanks!