Seafaring and Christmas in Greece

Since always, people’s customs were influenced by their everyday life, jobs and environment. Greece is a country full of blue, connected with the sea, therefore also a maritime nation. Greece has a long naval heritage, which of course has also colored the people’s traditions.

Until the recent past, at least one person of each household was a seafarer, in order to provide his family enough money for their necessities. Life onboard was not easy, as well as the possibilities of communication with the rest of the family were rare.  While kids were waiting for their beloved ones to return home for Christmas, they got creative and built small ships and boats from simple materials: wood, paper and thread. They carried them when they sang Christmas Carols, while they were also a welcoming gift for the returned family members.

So, gradually these boats and their decorating with lights, were established in the Greek Christmas customs. It is also said that the boats were decorated as an oblation to Saint Nicholas, protector of the Seamen in the Orthodox Religion, for peaceful seas the next year. They were a symbol for each family, they depicted their love for the sea and their hope for better days.

After 1833, the Christmas tree was introduced in Greece by the Bavarian Prince Otto, who was ruling the country at that time. Its decoration gradually got more favorable, but hopefully, the custom of the illuminated boat is not yet forgotten. Often, the residents of our many islands and seaside regions, continue to decorate boats for Christmas, while they are also common as a part of cities’ public decoration.

What do you think? Would you like to decorate a boat this Christmas, for a change?

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