Christmas in Greece

September 25, 2017

Greek-CookiesChristmas in Greece tends to be a religious celebration following the traditions and rites of the Greek Orthodox church.

Preparation for the Christmas season begins on November 15 with a solemn forty-day period of fasting and reflection.  This period called Christmas Lent lasts until Christmas Eve.  People focus on preparing spiritually for the arrival of the Christ Child.  They attend church services, confess their sins, and take Communion.  They also fast abstaining from all meats, milk products, and rich foods.

On Christmas Eve, the last day of Christmas Lent, groups of children go from house to house singing the Kalanda, Greek Christmas carols.  It is considered good luck to have children come to one’s home and sing so often coins and treats are given to the children for their songs.  The Kalanda are also sung on New Year’s Eve and the Eve of Epiphany, January 5.

Decorations in the home are simple mainly involving the home’s altar.  The altar consists of a wall cabinet or table where people stand or kneel and pray while facing the east.  Religious icons, statues or pictures of saints, and other religious items are placed in or on the altar.  The most popular icons picture Mary, Nicholas, and Basil.  In addition to these icons family altars may contain wedding crowns, a cross, a prayer book, a censer, a light or candle, and other important items related to other religious holidays like Epiphany and Palm Sunday.

Christmas trees did not appear in Greece until 1839 when King Othon I put one up in his court.  It used to be that the tree of choice was the juniper tree decorated with walnuts, almonds, dried figs wrapped in tin foil and tied to branches with string, and tiny candles (lit only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  Today Christmas trees come from Greek tree farms and are decorated with lights and tinsel and topped with a star.  Some homes put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve while others wait until New Year’s Eve.

Greeks who own boats will decorate them in honor of St. Basil’s bringing presents from Caesarea by boat on New Year’s Eve.  Children get into the act by decorating paper, tin, or wooden boats and placing them throughout the house.

On Christmas Day the Dodecameron, the 12 days, begins.  It is a joyful time of celebration that lasts from Christmas Day to Epiphany, January 6.  For many this is a time of decorating, cooking, and buying and wrapping presents.  Friends get together for parties, dances, and much fun and camaraderie.

Christmas Day is the celebration of Christ’s birth.  Many attend church services starting as early at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning.

Each home enjoys a Christmas feast shared with the immediate family only.  Many families, as they gather around the table, will pause before sitting to lift the table three times in honor of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The meal starts with the breaking of the christopsomo, a Christmas bread eaten with honey.  Roast pork, chicken, or rabbit may be found on the Greek Christmas table along with many delightful cakes, cookies, and pastries.

Here are 2 recipes that one would find on many Greek Christmas tables.

Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)

Author: Nicole-Cooking for Keeps

 Prep time:  45 mins
Cook time:  15 mins
Total time:  1 hour

Serves: 5 dozen

These Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies) are a Greek classic. They’re buttery, crumbly, sweet, but not too sweet, and the perfect holiday treat!

Ingredients

1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
3 teaspoons pure almond extract
8 tablespoons powdered sugar + another cup or so for coating
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
5 to 5 ½ cups flour
Pinch of salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter in the bottom of a stand mixer on a medium-high speed for 20 minutes. Add egg and almond extract, mix until combined. Sift 8 tbsp. powdered sugar and baking soda together in a small bowl. Add to butter and egg. Beat another 10 minutes on a medium high speed.

Sift five cups of flour and salt together in a large bowl. With the speed on low, add flour a little bit at a time until completely incorporated. If the dough is too sticky, add ½ cup more of flour.

To Form: Roll about 2 tablespoons of dough into crescents and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silt pad. There is no need to place cookies very far apart, as they do not spread much. Bake for 15-20 minutes until very pale brown and cooked through.

If serving cookies right away. Let them cool slightly and toss in powdered sugar. These will keep for 5 days. If you want to keep them for longer than five days, wait to toss in powdered sugar until just before serving.

*These can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container.

Recipe by Cooking for Keeps at http://www.cookingforkeeps.com/kourabiedes-greek-butter-cookies/

 Baklava

Recipe By:NEONWILLIE

“A Greek favorite that makes everyone think you are a master chef and is sooo easy to make!! I taught a Greek friend how to make apple pie and she taught me this fabulous recipe. The phyllo dough for this recipe is found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Add a little lemon zest to the sugar sauce, if desired.”

Ingredients

·         1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
·         1 pound chopped nuts
·         1 cup butter
·         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1 cup water
·         1 cup white sugar
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         1/2 cup honey

Directions

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.

2.       Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.

3.       Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

4.       Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

5.       Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2017 Allrecipes.com
Printed From Allrecipes.com 9/17/2017

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Christmas Websites To Explore

August 27, 2017

The Christmas season will be upon us before we know it.  Here are some Christmas website for you to explore now so you can use the information they have to enhance your Christmas celebration and involve all the little ones, and the not-so-little ones also, in your life.

www.christmas.com – This is a fun little website that offers a lot of Christmas fun.  Get new recipes to try, play some Christmas games, listen to some music, and avail yourself of their planning tips for the Christmas season.  One of the nice features on this site are the free family pages.  Families can upload and share Christmas memories and photos.  Let other family members know what recipes you are using for this year’s Christmas feast.  Don’t forget to post your Christmas wish lists.

www.northpole.com – This fun website has been around a long time.  Established in 1996 it has grown to what it is today.  On it you will find fun things for the kids to do, crafts to make, and recipes to try.

www.allthingschristmas.com – This website is a treasure trove of Christmas information and articles.  They also have a presence on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AllThingsChristmas/.  Also look for some Christmas giveaways here.

www.customsofchristmas.com – Don’t forget our own little website.  Find out the origins of many of our Christmas customs and traditions.  In addition to all that you will find games, craft ideas, recipes, and free downloads.  Remember our advent calendar.  It starts on November 29 and goes through Christmas Eve.  Each day you can listen to a 15 minutes segment of the story The Adventures of The Cinnamon Bear.  This story has been loved by thousands of kids and kids-at-heart for many years.

Christmas Videos for Christmas in July

July 25, 2017

I thought these videos were cute so I decided to share them with you for Christmas in July.

Christmas In July | Funny Xmas Compilation

Minecraft Xbox – Christmas Rescue

Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney – The Sid Winkler Trio

The Pink Panther in “A Very Pink Christmas” | 23 Minute Christmas Special

Merry Christmas in July!

The Town That Santa Forgot

June 25, 2017

Here’s a short Hanna-Barbera Christmas video starring Dick Van Dyke that I became aware of just a couple days ago.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Book Review: The Red Suit Diaries

May 25, 2017

The Red Suit Diaries by Ed ButchartRedSuitDiaries

A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith

This book is a biographical sketch of Ed Butchart’s journey to becoming Santa Claus for the children and children-at-heart of the Atlanta area.  He begins with the first time he donned the red suit.  He was a senior in high school at the time.

After high school he went to college to study journalism then joined the Marine Corp.  When his time in as a Marine was over he became a salesman for a medical diagnostics company.

He was also active in his church where he befriended a wheelchair-bound man who had cerebral palsy.  This friendship eventually led Ed to stop being a very successful salesman and start a non-profit business repairing wheelchairs and other medical equipment for folks in need named Friends of Disabled Adults, Inc. (FODA).

The next time he donned the red suit was for a special event hosted by his church.  This launched him into becoming a professional Santa Claus.  Ed’s faith became a big part of his philosophy, of what he endeavored to portray as Santa Claus.  He was determined that each child who came to see him would experience the love of God Who sent His son Jesus born on that first Christmas day to die for the sins of the world and to know that just as God loves him or her Santa loves him or her, too.

The book is full of Santa Ed’s encounters with children.  One of my favorite stories was of a family who visited Santa.  There were five poorly dressed children.  At the request of the oldest child Santa Ed started with the younger children.  After listening to their Christmas lists, the oldest girl sat on Santa’s lap.  Her only request was for a Christmas tree for the younger children to enjoy.  Ed, seeing the family did not have extra money for Christmas, encouraged the young lady to keep hope in Christmas and her dreams alive for herself and her siblings.  He told the man who videotaped for sale each child’s interview with Santa to give the family for free their children’s interview tape.  As the family walked away the videographer followed them and gave them a $100 bill, telling them it was from Santa, so they could get a Christmas tree and make their Christmas merry.  The family’s return thanking Santa for “his” gift is priceless.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I believe you will enjoy it also.  It made me want to put on the red suit and share the love of Jesus, the One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, with children in my area.  Perhaps someday, if God wills it, I will do so.

Easter message & Hot Cross Buns

April 25, 2017

The Eternal Message
by Margaret Rorke

Once again in joy and wonder
We approach the holy tomb
Where despair’s been rent asunder;
Where the Marys went at dawning
On that week’s initial day;
Where the sepulcher is yawning
For its stone’s been rolled away.

Once again the angel motions
To the faithful to draw near
And to offer their devotions
With the news, “He is not here!”
He has risen!  Be not fearful.
As he promised he has done.
Be not sick at heart or tearful.
His great victory is won.

Once again we thank our Master
For the message Easter gives.
Though there’s heartbreak and disaster
For each one of us who lives,
We can glimpse eternal portals
Through a faith which makes it known
That what means the most to mortals
Isn’t earthbound by a stone.

Ideals Easter, 1988

 

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon instant powdered milk
1/4 cup white sugar
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg white
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup dried currants
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons milk

Directions

  1. Put warm water, butter, skim milk powder, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, egg, egg white, flour, and yeast in bread maker and start on dough program.
  2. When 5 minutes of kneading are left, add currants and cinnamon. Leave in machine till double.
  3. Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.
  4. Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.
  5. Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.
  7. To make crosses: mix together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk. Place glaze in a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off; pipe a cross onto each roll.

 

Easter’s Christmas Connection

March 26, 2017

We are now in the middle of the Easter season.  For many this is a time of looking forward to colored eggs, candy, and Easter bunnies.  For others it is a time of remembering Easter’s Christmas connection.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Baby whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas, grew up living a life free from sin as predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament.  He led an itinerant ministry up and down the tiny country of Israel.  He preached the message “The Kingdom Of Heaven Is At Hand” while training twelve men to spread His message throughout the world.


In spite of all the good He did, in spite of the following He had among the people, the leaders, both religious and political, hated Him.  They conspired against Him, arrested Him on fake charges, and held an illegal kangaroo court to convict Him of a crime He never committed.  They pressured the Roman governorship to give Him a death sentence.  Then they made sure the death sentence was carried out.  All this, too, was predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament.


But that is not the end of the story.  Three days later the event occurred that many celebrate on Easter Sunday.  God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead signifying that He accepted Jesus’ payment for the penalty of our sins.


This same Jesus Who was born in a stable whose birthday we celebrate Christmas Day died to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind and Rose from the dead Easter morning to seal the deal for all time.  It is now up to each one of us to accept that payment for the penalty of our sins.  If you have not yet accepted that payment for the penalty of your sins I hope you will do so soon.


That is Easter’s Christmas connection.

History of Christmas Traditions

February 25, 2017

My friends at Tree Classics shared this History of Christmas Traditions with me so I thought I would share it with you.  Thank you, Tree Classics!  I bet there is something here that you did not know.  Now I wonder what Michelangelo used to sculpt his snowman.

treeclassics-infographic-final-v2

For more Christmas tradition history visit Tree Classics’ blog.

Please share some of your Christmas traditions in the comments below.

Christmas blessings!

Thinking back, looking forward

January 29, 2017

This Christmas I really wanted to visit the home folk, but I could not.  My family is large requiring two vehicles to travel anywhere together.  We just did not have the money to do it.  I thought of them often this Christmas season.  Perhaps you were in the same situation as I was so I hope this poem taken from the Country Christmas book published by Ideals.

The Heart Goes Home
Grace V. Watkins

Always the heart goes home on Christmas Eve,
Goes silently across a continent,
Or mountains, or the seas.
  A heart will leave
The glitter of a city street and, sent
By something deep and timeless, find the way
To a little cottage on a country hill.

And even if the little cottage may
Have disappeared, a heart will find it still.

The smile of tenderness upon the faces,
The simple words, the arms secure and strong,
The sweetness of the well-remembered places –

All these a heart will find and will belong
Once more to country hills, however far,
And sense the holy presence of the Star.

 

The little snow we had at Christmas time has long been gone, but I am looking forward to more hopefully soon.

Winter Night
Author Unknown

Outside, the icy wind with eerie sound
Sweeps through the trees and chants a minor strain,
Like one who on some endless quest is bound,
Seeking for that which he may never gain.

Grateful am I that I am housed tonight
Within four walls, the hearth fire flickering low;
You near to share with me in this delight
That soothes our senses with its genial glow.

We speak not any word to break the spell –
We fear to mar this perfect, golden hour;
Who called the winter drear?
  Do we not dwell
With beauty as lovely as a summer flower?

Christmas blessings to you and your family!

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2016

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