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 are associated with the holidays in every corner of Greece to regional favorites, the tastes of the holidays are fabulous!
01 of 09
Baklava is a perennial favorite, a classic Greek pastry made with flaky phyllo dough that is layered with a cinnamon-spiced nut filling and bathed in sweet syrup. It’s crunchy and sweet and very decadent.
In the northernmost Greek prefecture of Evron in the region of Thrace, a special sesame baklava is made on Christmas Eve. Since it contains no dairy products and eggs (forbidden during Advent), it can be enjoyed the night before the fast ends on Christmas Day.
02 of 09
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.
03 of 09
It wouldn't be Christmas in Kozani (and other cities in Northern Greece) without stuffed cabbage! In other parts of Greece, they are called 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.
04 of 09
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.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
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 dish pictured here is for a lemon pork with celery recipe.
06 of 09
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.
Some versions of melomakarona are made with nut centers, while others like the recipe in the photo are made with optional ground nuts in the cookie dough.
Other seasonal... favorites include cookies called phoenikia (also finikia) and isli.
07 of 09
Kourabiethes (also kourambiedes, κουραμπιέδες, say: koo-rahb-YEH-thes) are sugared shortbread cookies that melt in the mouth! Often made with toasted almonds, they also can be made with other nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts). They can be made in circular shapes, crescents, shaped 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 confectioners' sugar.
Along with melomakarona, kourabiethes are rarely... absent from homes all over Greece at Christmas.
08 of 09
The Eptanisa as they are called in Greek (a 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.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
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. This is just one of the many famous (and delicious) dishes from Crete.