The story of the Greek Christmas Carols

December 6, 2017

The day before Christmas, on December 24th, children in Greece are singing the Christmas carols accompanied by their small metal triangles and/or other light percussion instruments. This carol is commonly abbreviated as "Kalanta" or "Kalanda". I remember myself and my brother looking forward to that day, cause this carol marked for us the official countdown to Christmas, which meant we could finally open our presents.

 

So, early in the morning the children go from door to door, asking “ na ta poume” meaning “shall we sing?“. After they sing the carol, they wish the home Merry Christmas, happiness, health, and prosperity. The adults answer, “come again next year”, meaning that they wish them to be blessed and healthy throughout the whole year. In return the carolers get coins or/and edible goodies, such as traditional holiday sweets including Christmas honey cookies (melomakarona) or Christmas buttered cookies topped with powdered sugar (kourabiedes), knitted breads called Christopsomo, and pomegranate.

 

The Greek Christmas carols date back to the Byzantine times and the word “kalanta” derives from the latin “calenda”, which is defined as the start of the month.

 

Much like every Greek folk song, the lyrics and music of the kalanta vary depending on the region, and this is evident not only in the musical instruments accompanying the carolers but also the rhythm and the wishes. In some regions, the musical accompaniment includes guitars, clarinet, the tabor drum, harmonica, or accordion. Hear out how the traditions of each region influence the Christmas carol:

  1. Kalanda from Epirus (Northwest Greece)

  2. Kalanda from Peloponnese (Southern Greece)

  3. Kalanda from Trace (Northeast Greece)

  4. Kalanda from Corfu Island

  5. Kalanda from Creta Island

Live the experience and visit Greece on your Christmas Holidays. There are so many other Christmas traditions to explore wherever you go. 

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