Greek Traditional Delicacies to have Christmas… on your plate

Christmas is a day to eat. The table is always rich and the traditions are many. Every region of Greece, after all, has its own traditional Christmas food and sweets.

The gastronomic habits on Christmas day vary with most areas, however, pork is on every table. Pork is the basis for many festive dishes. The festive table does not lack sweets with diples, "baklavadakia", "kourabiedes", and melomakarona to be in the first line of preferences.

We will fill you up. We will present the traditional Christmas foods and sweets of Greece which are served at the festive table these days.

Homemade Baklava by Marc Kjerland
Homemade Baklave by Marc Kjerland

Tradition wants Pork

One of the most famous Greek traditional Christmas customs is “gourounohara”, which literally translates to “pork happiness”.

Traditionally, families buy a small pig in May and raise it at home. The pig is slaughtered a few days before Christmas. In fact, tradition wants the housewife to give the butcher man some ashes and incense. The butcher, after incensing everyone, throws the incense and the ashes onto the pig's neck to get the blessing. Many even smeared a small amount of cross-shaped blood on the children's foreheads, for good luck.

When the pig was slaughtered, there was a feast with wine and tsipouro, while they made "prasoselino", “leek and pork celery” perhaps the most characteristic, festive Greek dish.

Dolmas in the pan by Rebecca Siegel
Dolmas in a pan by Rebecca Siegel


Msoura in northern Greece and Thrace

In Northern Greece, it is customary to eat “msoura” at Christmas. This is a traditional dish of pork, beef, and chicken simmered with vegetables and rice in the oven. In Thessaloniki “tzigerosalmades”, cabbage with pork and stuffed chicken are on the front line.

Another preference of the inhabitants of the area is the Pontian cabbage stuffing. It is a food that has a symbolic meaning since wrapping the leaves symbolizes the nappies of Christ.

Thrace in turn has the “bambo”. It is pork with many herbs and spices. It is prepared from the previous night where it simmers for hours so that it is ready and primarily hot on Christmas day. There are many areas of northern Greece where pork is served at the table with sauerkraut.

Macedonian Fig Cake

The fig cake is mostly made in Macedonia. It is a sweet bread, which looks like raisin bread since it has black currants and dried figs. Yeast, olive oil, water, flour, and salt are needed for the bread and then black currants and figs were added. The cross on top of the bread is essential and brings happiness, good luck, and blessing.

The Nine Meals in Evros

There are many symbols on the Christmas table throughout Greece. In Evros, for example, on Christmas Eve there are nine different dishes on the table which symbolize the abundance of food throughout the year. The same goes for honey, wine, apple, and pie that are not missing from any table and all of them have a symbolic character.

Spanakopita (Spinach pie) by Alexander Baxevanis
Spanakopita (Spinach pie) by Alexander Baxevanis


The Continental Pies

All kinds of pies have their honor in Epirus at Christmas. Meat pie, milk pie, sweet pumpkin pie are essential on every table. There is also no shortage of cabbage stuffing and of course “melomakarona”.

In Ioannina, they make the wild boar salmon but also the classic baklava. In Zagorochoria, the traditional Christmas sweet that looks like pancakes.

Central Greece votes for pork for Christmas. All the delicacies of the day are based on pork. They also eat pork with celery, chicken soup, and stuffed turkey.

Baked chicken with rice and raisins in Trikala

In Trikala on Christmas day, they eat “gournada”, meaning, grilled pork. Of course, there is also the baked chicken with rice and raisins.

Many families still keep the tradition and make the "bambes", which are boiled colon and stuffed with liver, spleen, herbs, and spices.

Christopsomo - Greek Christmas Bread by Jason Hollinger
Christopsomo - Greek Christmas Bread by Jason Hollinger


Peloponnese and its Classic Delights

In the Peloponnese, they prefer the pork baked in the oven. In Arcadia, the meat pie is a classic food of the day. In Sparta, housewives patiently shape the traditional bun of the area. They make it in the shape of a cross and not round and at each end, they decorate it with almonds and walnuts.

The Delicacies of the Ionian and Dodecanese

In Corfu, rooster “pastitsada” is an integral part of the Christmas table. In Kefalonia, they choose “pouritida”, ie pork with cauliflower or cabbage. Lefkada prefers rooster or beef spaghetti for these days. They also make a “kouloura”, a kind of bread and the oil pie.

Pork and Christmas go together in the Dodecanese. In Samos, they choose pork which is boiled with lemon that became thick because of the fat, and they ate it on Christmas day. In Rhodes, traditional Christmas “dolmadas” must be present at every Christmas table.

Fried liver by Michelle Lee
Fried Liver by Michelle Lee


More Islands and their Gastronomic Wonders

During the Christmas period in Mytilene, they make a variation of baklava called platseda. These are pies with walnut and syrup. Each plate was shaped like a screw, like Skopelos cheese pies, and was sprinkled with syrup of water, sugar, and vanilla.

From there and beyond in Syros, there is a special tradition on Christmas Eve to eat cauliflower or broccoli with fish.

Piglet with Lemon Leaves in Crete

And in Crete, there are many Christmas traditions. After the Divine Liturgy of Christmas, they share meat, wine, and a bun. In the prefecture of Lassithi on Christmas day they choose to eat fried liver. Of course, no Cretan house lacks pork with a particular preference for pork in the oven-baked with lemon leaves. Sausages, apakia, siglino, and the turkey compose the Christmas table.

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