Dolma served on Christmas and New Year's tables

Traditional Greek Christmas Dishes by Regions

Foteini Pagonidou

Foteini Pagonidou

Foteini Pagonidou is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Greece).

Foteini was born and raised in Greece. She loves Greek cuisine and even though she admires her country's history and culture, she always strives to explore other civilizations as well. Foteini strongly believes that a traveler's mind - is an open mind.
She is looking forward to sharing all the secrets of her beautiful country with you.
Foteini Pagonidou

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In Greece the Christmas celebration is one of the most important religious traditions.  Apart from religion, for Greek people Christmas is also deeply associated with family and food.  Since, of course, this festive holiday brings the family closer and nothing promotes merrier discussions than great homemade food!

During the Christmas season food and sweets are usually prepared and consumed according to old customs, which emerged from the bygone lifestyles of our ancestors.  One of the most significant, though somewhat banal practices, is the slaughter of pigs, which make up for a series of traditional dishes.

Along with the well-known and customary main courses and desserts, such as turkey and pork – pies and classic pastries like melomakarona, kourabiedes, diples and basilopita, each found a place within our gastronomic tradition.  So let’s see which particular dishes are served in different parts of Greece!

Diples, Greek Christmas Dishes - Global Storybook

Diples – the traditional Greek Christmas sweet fries

Northern Greece and Thrace

Msoura is the traditional Christmas dish of the Melissohori community in Thessaloniki – a kind of trilogy made of pork, beef and veal, baked together with vegetables and rice in the oven.  Pontian potatoes are another festive food plate which also has a symbolic significance – since the wrapping of cabbage leaves symbolizes the heart of Christ.

In the northern regions of Greece, pork is often served with pickled cabbage.

In the Evros region, there are usually nine different dishes on the table served on the Christmas Eve.  All the dishes have to be raw to invoke the abundance of food throughout the next year.

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Melomakarona - Greek Christmas Honey and Nuts Cookies

Babo is not missing from any Thracian house.  It’s pork stuffed with a lot of herbs and spices, which is boiling all night so it is ready and warm in the morning, after the Christmas ceremony.  Also honey, wine, apple and pies are not missing from any table, since all of these items are very symbolic to Greek households.

Epirus

The festive dinner here includes a number of pies such as kusmeri, meat pies, the famous bachara, milk pies, sweet pumpkin pies, and the melomakarona, as they call this desert in Epirus.  In Ioannina city, the classic baklavas is one of the main deserts.  In Zagorohoria, they usually serve the “spargana” desert, which is like a pancake.

Melomakarouna, Epirus - Global Storybook

Melomakarona – traditional Greek cookies made with honey syrup and nuts, usually served during the Christmas holidays

Central Greece and Evia island

Pork and turkey are the key ingredients of the festive dishes served in this region.  According to an old practice, women usually collected the fat of a pig, while men ate the pork they had just fried, washing it down with red wine.  Different parts of the meat were intended for different dishes, like sausages.

In Trikala, the locals usually serve the “gournada” on the Christmas Day, which is roasted pork.  In addition, on the Christmas Eve, pork chips are baked in the fireplace, sprinkled with plenty of salt.  They call it kontosoufli here.

In Central Greece they usually eat pork with celery, chicken soup, as well as stuffed turkey.  Christopsomo, which is actually a sweet bread made only for Christmas, plus some pies are served at the festive table.  Melomakarona, the traditional pancakes, walnut pie, galatoboureko, ravani and kourabiedes are the sweets of the day.

Peloponnese

In the region of Peloponnese the natives usually serve pork baked in the oven, on the Christmas day.  The meat pie is a classic Christmas dish in Arcadia.  In Sparta, the housewives are patiently making the Christmas bread in the shape of a cross rather than a circle, and they also fill each corner with almonds and walnuts.  In Mani, “lalagia” or the ‘’tiganides” is the favorite Christmas desert, which is similar to donuts and pancakes.

Traditional Greek food, lalagia of Mani - Global Storybook

The famous traditional sweets from Mani, known as “lalagia”

Ionian Islands

In Kefalonia, “poutrida” is the main traditional Christmas dish, which is actually pork served with cauliflower or cabbage.  Roasted chicken or beef, along with spaghetti, are traditionally eaten in Lefkada.  And if you ever find yourself in Lefkada during the Christmas period – make sure to taste their famous oil pie.

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Postcards from Athens

Dodecanese

Pork is the main ingredient preferred on this Greek complex of islands.  In Rhodes, they serve the famous ‘’giaprakia’’ which are cabbage leaves stuffed with pork meat and then made into rolls and baked in the oven.

Crete

In Crete, the locals share meat, wine and bun, right after the church ceremony.  In Lasithi, they eat fried liver on the Christmas day.

On every Christmas table in Crete, there is always pork, baked in a wood oven, with lemon.  Sausages, the traditional ’’tsigarides’’ and turkey, are favorite Christmas dishes on the island as well.  As for the desert, they usually make yoghurt pie – a traditional sweet bread and pies from Sfakia region.

Crete - Traditional Cretan fried apaki smoked pork-Other Greek islands

In Samos they serve boiled pork meat with lemon.  As to Syros, it is a custom for the locals to eat cauliflower or broccoli and fish on the Christmas Eve.  On Poros island, pork with celery, baked in the oven, is the main dish served on the Christmas day.  In Mytilene, they usually make the famous platserda, which is a sweet pie with nuts.  Almonds and the traditional sweet pancakes are present on virtually all the islands’ festive tables.

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Traditional Greek Christmas Dishes by Regions - Global Storybook

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