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Christmas customs

   The celebration of Christ’s birth. In the first Christian centuries it wasn’t celebrated separately. It was celebrated on Epiphany. It was established to be celebrated separately on the 25th of December in the 5th century. Many of the customs of this celebration are pre-Christian. From “Saturnalia” (a Roman celebration) a custom of killing a pig remained. It was called “chirosfagia”. From the same Roman celebration the customs of burning candles and exchanging gifts remained as well. The Christmas tree is a relatively new custom and is considered to be a Celtic remain. The Saxons were the first who used ivy. Carols were spread and became even more important after the 13th century.

Carols in our village

     Christmas. Days of joy for everyone. Everyone looks forward to these days but most of all children. Children all over the world fell that little Christ is inside them. The little Christ who comes to the world every year to talk about love and peace. To send to everyone the message. A message that children must send to everyone in their village, to the whole world.  
   Christmas Eve. Through the dark in the narrow alleys of the village the first groups of children show up. The first happy voices are heard in the air of Karitsa. The alleys are full of airy shadows. Groups of children that were looking forward to this moment. None of the children has slept the previous night. Without caring about the cold or the rain they knock the door of every house. First in their own neighborhood and then in the whole village. They held in their hands triangles and harmonicas and all of them sing with happy voices Christmas Carols.

  “Christougenna, Protougenna, proti giorti tou hronou
ki an thelete na mathete pos o Christos geniete
geniete ki anatrefete me meli ke me gala
to meli tron I archondes to gala I afendades
ki anixte ta spitakia sas ta kataklidomena
ke doste mas ton kopo mas na pame se ali porta”

The owners of the houses open their doors and listen to the message. They welcome the children by offering them candies, cookies and money.

New Year’s day in Karitsa

     The greatest celebration of the year. Our mothers make “vasilopita” on New Year’s eve. “Vasilopita” is an old custom we inherited from our ancestors. In earlier years (in the days of our grandparents) the housewives would prepare “vasilopita” overnight. Early in the morning of New Year’s Day they would wake up and bake it in the oven of the yard. After that they would to wake their children up and all of them were getting ready to go to the church. At the end of the liturgy the whole family go back to the house to cut the pie. The “vasilopita” was cut by the houselord. The central piece would be for the Christ. The second piece would be for Virgin Mary and the third for Santa Claus. The rest of the pieces were for every member of the family. In the “vasilopita” the housewife would put a coin, a piece of holm oak for the sheep and goats (cattle) and a piece of straw for the mules (agriculture).
   On New year’s Eve children in groups would sing the carols to the whole village. At night the whole family would gather in the house of the grandfather to play cards or to tell stories. In midnight the light would be turned off just for a second to welcome the New Year. Many of these customs are kept until today but not so authentically.


   An ancient custom which comes from the worship of the God Dionysus. It is kept until today in many areas in Macedonia and especially in villages such as Karitsa, Livadi Olympou and many others. This custom is related with the exorcism of evil spirits, which is achieved by the sound of bells, as we will see later. The New Year’s Day the young people of the village would wear masks made of sheep leather. These masks were horrible at sight with the intention of scaring the evil spirits that were around the village and wanted to harm it. Round their waist on a wide belt they would hang big bells. Dressed like this they went round the village shaking their bells in order to cause so much noise that could scare the evil spirits away. It is also said that boys were dressed as pigs and went around the village having the same purpose as “babaliouria” had. Moreover, someone playing bagpipes went around with them and sang songs. For example at a house that an unmarried daughter was living they sang the following song

“edo kori gia pantria, kori gia aravona

   After they had visited every house in the village they went to the central square and dance with all the other residents. The feast went on until the morning, in houses of friends and relatives.

New Year’s customs in other places in Greece

   In many other Greek places it is believed that in New Year’s Day someone should foresee his future or should try by some symbolic actions to change it. So in many places on New Year’s Day taps are left open meaning that as the water runs the luck of the person who opened them runs as well. It is also believed that spreading sand in the house will bring luck too. In the New Year’s morning all the members of the family wash their faces with water the housewife gives them in order to wash away last year’s evil spirits. She also hits them gently with an iron to that has been left out the previous night. This action symbolizes that people should be as strong as the iron tool. In many places the moment they wake up they look at the mountains [if this is possible] hoping that they’ll be as strong and stable as mountains are the year that follows. Especially if the mountains are covered with snow this means that New Year will be even more successful.

Epiphany in Karitsa

   Karitsa as every village is a village with rich religious tradition. Many of the customs are connected with religious celebrations. Epiphany for people in Karitsa starts at church. After the liturgy the families of the village give symbolic amount of money to church and they take part in the litany that follows carrying an icon. The litany having the priest as a leader goes to “Potoki” (location of the village). There the priest throws the Holly Cross in the river. Years before, when the river was full of water, young people dove in the river to catch the Cross. When they get back to the village the priest holding the Holly Cross and basil goes to every house to bless it. At the noon the whole family has lunch together.