10 Greek Food Traditions of Christmas

Christmas is an observance of faith in Greece and, all over the country, tables will be set with foods that have become tradition, passed from generation to generation. From classics that have become associated with the holidays in every corner of Greece to regional favorites, the tastes of the holidays are fabulous! 

  • 01 of 11

    Sesame Baklava - Christmas Eve in Evros

    Photo of Greek Sesame Baklava
    N. Gaifyllia

    The tradition of making Sesame Baklava on Christmas eve comes from the northernmost Greek prefecture of Evros in the region of Thrace but, even there, it is a tradition that is slipping away. The 40 days before Christmas day are, for the devout, a time of dietary restriction. Because this easy recipe is made without the dairy products and eggs that will be used liberally in so many holiday dishes, it was a favorite to enjoy the night before the "fast" ended. And in Greece, we love our...MORE sweets!

    More Greek Recipes for Baklava and Phyllo Pastries

  • 02 of 11
    Photo of Greek Egg-Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup
    N. Gaifyllia

    Either as the first meal after Christmas eve church services, or the first course at the main meal of the day, this chicken and rice soup made with the famous mixture of eggs and lemon juice (avgolemono) is a familiar sight in Greek homes.

    More Greek Soup Recipes

  • 03 of 11
    Photo of Greek Stuffed Cabbage with Meat - Lahanodolmades - Yiaprakia - Giaprakia
    N. Gaifyllia

    It wouldn't be Christmas in Kozani (and other cities in Northern Greece) without stuffed cabbage! In other parts of Greece we may call these lahanodolmades (cabbage dolmades) or lahanophylla yemista (stuffed cabbage leaves), but up north, they're yiaprakia (γιαπράκια, say: yah-PRAHK-yah) and they are never missing from the Christmas table.

    The traditional Kozani version is made with toursi lahano - cabbage that has been soaked in brine for 6 weeks - and ground pork. This simpler recipe...MORE (photo) is for Stuffed Cabbage with Meat and Rice, using regular cabbage and ground beef.

    More Greek Recipes for Stuffed Leaves & Vegetables

  • 04 of 11
    Photo of Greek Christmas Bread - Christopsomo
    N. Gaifyllia

    Christopsomo (χριστόψωμο, say: hree-STOHP-soh-moh) literally means "Christ's Bread," and is a fixture in Greek Orthodox homes at Christmas. Great care is taken when making the bread, and loaves can be simple or elaborate.

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  • 05 of 11

    Pork - the Traditional Meat of Christmas

    Photo of Greek Lemon Pork with Celery
    N. Gaifyllia

    All over Greece, the hog slaughter is a winter event, making pork a natural choice as the traditional meat of the season. For those who raise hogs and slaughter their own, fabulous dishes are cooked around open fires and hearths. The recipe shown is Lemon Pork with Celery.

    More Greek Pork Recipes

  • 06 of 11

    Turkey - the Newcomer

    Photo of Greek Stuffed Capon

    Turkey arrived in Greece recently - in the early 1800s (which, for a country with centuries of history, is recent) - and has become a popular centerpiece on the Christmas or New Year's table. Chicken is also a favorite poultry choice. Stuffings are often made with ground lamb or raisins with chestnuts. The recipe at left is Turkey (or Capon) Stuffed with Lamb and Rice.

    More Greek Turkey and Poultry Recipes

  • 07 of 11

    Melomakarona Cookies - the Spices of the Season

    Photo of Greek Melomakarona Honey Spice Cookies - Christmas Cookies
    N. Gaifyllia

    Cinnamon, cloves, orange - a traditional combination of tastes identified with the holiday season - are the common factor in these fabulous cookies that are (most often) dipped in a lightly spiced syrup after baking, then topped with sprinkled nuts. In many parts of Greece, the term "Christmas Cookies" means Melomakarona.

    Similar cookies called Phoenikia (also finikia) and Isli are seasonal favorites as well.

    Some versions of Melomakarona are made with nut centers, while others like the...MORE recipe in the photo for Melomakarona with Walnuts are made with optional ground nuts in the cookie dough.

    More Greek

  • 08 of 11

    Kourabiethes Cookies - a Flurry of Sugar

    Photo of Greek Sugared Shortbread Cookies - Kourabiethes - Kourambiedes
    Jim Stanfield

    Kourabiethes (also kourambiedes, κουραμπιέδες, say: koo-rahb-YEH-thes) are sugared shortbread cookies that melt in the mouth! Often made with toasted almonds, they can also be made with other nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts). They can be made in circular shapes, crescents, made by hand, or rolled out and cut, but the one thing all versions have in common is that they are rolled in, dusted with, or buried under a flurry of confectioner's sugar.

    The recipe in the photo is for Kourabiethes with Toasted...MORE Almonds and Brandy, and other recipes include cinnamon (no brandy), as well as other tastes.

    With Melomakarona above, Kourabiethes are rarely absent from homes all over Greece at Christmas.

    More Greek Recipes for

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11
    Photo of Greek Walnut Spice Cake
    N. Gaifyllia

    The Eptanisa as they are called in Greek (seven-island group in the Ionian Sea) bring their own traditions to every season, Christmas included, and this walnut spice cake is one. Made with the seasonal favorites of cinnamon, cloves, and walnuts, the cake is baked then soaked in a spiced syrup.

    More Recipes from the Ionian Islands

  • 10 of 11
    Photo of Myzithra Cheese Pastries from Crete - Kalitsounia Kritis
    N. Gaifyllia

    Fresh soft myzithra cheese (or ricotta as a substitute) in pastry is a Christmas tradition on the island of Crete. Depending on how they're folded (the recipe includes a link to photos of folding techniques), they are baked or fried. One of the many famous (and delicious) dishes from Crete.

    More Greek Recipes from Crete

  • 11 of 11