Friday, December 23, 2011

CHRISTMAS and the Greek family...

Ever since I moved to Greece almost 20 years ago we´ve celebrated Christmas here. When Christos was working he was never able to take days off for any major holidays, so we couldn´t go to Norway. By now, we´ve established a Norwegian-Greek Christmas tradition, so there would be tears in the Greek family should we decide to celebrate in Norway one year. Or so I´d like to think!
Like I have written in former posts - the Greeks are lost when it comes to Christmas. As it´s Christos´ name day on Christmas day - and name days are big in Greece - he believed Christmas was something one celebrated because of him. Actually, his inner child still believes that and can´t really understand why other people shall receive gifts, too.
(As for that guy Christ? Christ - Christos - what´s the difference?)
Further, he couldn´t get that I insisted on having everyone over for dinner on Christmas Eve, which is the Big Day in Norway.
The rest of the family didn´t get it, either. The first Christmas they politely showed up, two hours after they had been invited, wearing track suits and carrying their gifts in plastic bags.
Luckily I married into a family of foodies, so at least there were no complaints, only curiosity, about all that weird food they were served.
Actually, I think any Norwegian celebrating with us also would find the food, and especially the food combinations,  pretty weird. One thing is that I can´t get hold of all the ingredients, so - like the creative woman I am - I have to improvise. Another thing is that the Greeks insist that we´d put some feta cheese, olives and salad, too on the table. Forget about delicious sauces or fancy dressings - they pour olive oil over everything!
They still show up a couple of hours after they are invited, but dressed up - and besides, now I am used to it. I am also used to never knowing how many people we´ll be at the table. It´s very Greek to just bring someone along - and not to tell about it. It´s also very Greek not to show up - and not tell about that - and it´s not even considered impolite in Greece!
So of course it´s impossible to have a north-European style dinner with starter, main course and dessert, all served with precise timing. We just put everything on the table (except the dessert): The gravlaks and mustard sauce, the pork roll, the tyttebærsyltetøy (a cranberrylike jam), the sursild (pickled herring), the pate, the boiled potatoes and Brussel sprouts,  the pickled beetroot, the village sausages and the German smoked sausages, the Waldorf salad, the sauerkraut and the cabbage salad, the spinach pie from my sister in law, the feta cheese and the olives and the olive oil...And then everyone just come and dig in whatever the time is when they show up.
I am especially looking forward to one guest this year: Julenissen, Santa Claus, who´ll come all the way from the north pole bringing gifts...

Two years ago, at Christmas eve, our niece Eleni revealed that she was expecting a baby. Now Anastasia is one and a half years old - old enough to be introduced to Julenissen! He´ll come knocking on the door, carrying a huge sack filled with gifts that he´ll deliver before he leaves. (The sad thing is that I always use to miss this, as I am at the toilet when he arrives, but never mind..:))
I LOVE Christmas Eve!
A wonderful Christmas to you, too, whenever you celebrate it!
PS: And as I am writing this, the sun has come up and there´s SNOW on the mountains of Thassos!


  1. Merry Christmas! And a happy & prosperous new year to you and family!

  2. Ha ha ha! The Italians are just like the Greeks!! When we show up at my brother-in-law's house they're all wearing track suits....

    Happy Christmas to you!

    Even though neither the Italians nor the Greeks get it; we Norwegians know VERY WELL that Christmas Eve is the most important day of Christmas. At least in Norway, that is.... ;-))

  3. Great reading. . .funny too . . . but oh so real! I can truly identify with you . . .but fortunately for me, in our Icelandic/Greek family, we decided that the main Christmas meal would always be Nordic. . .that is to say on Christmas Eve. . but then Easter is always 100% Greek! Hope you had a joyous & God Jul. . .and I wish you a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year! Karitas

  4. We had a very nice evening! After all, it´s the people around the table that is the most important..

  5. Herlig lesing om din norsk/greske julaften feiring...hehe.....

    Akkurat det med ankomst av tidspunkt minte meg om italia, tro hvorfor det er sånn?

    Vi feiret julaften hjemme i Norge, absolutt det meste julete jeg kan tenke meg, og på Tjøme var det også grønn jul....;)

    Godt nytt år !

  6. This is such an interesting spin on a typical Christmas Eve in America, where I live.

    This creates such a wonderful visual! Track suits haha that is very funny. And the gifts in plastic bags! That is such a deep contrast to our chaotic, crazed, intensity for perfection on such a holiday here. With all of the stress from buying gifts, dressing up nicely, and getting the family together for dinners- that were planned out maybe even weeks ahead of time, not including the hours spent on preparing it- how could it not be a big holiday. Although, you version of Christmas sounds much more enjoyable, it sounds much more laid back than ours.

    Another interesting detail is the part about the family being late. Time is of such importance to us, we stress out when we are late, and we get upset and angry when others are late, so I find it a little strange how normal it is for Greeks to show up late or not show up at all. I could only imagine how my mother would react on Christmas if my family not only showed up late, but with unexpected guests. She would not take too kindly to it all. But in your situation it all just sounds like good fun, like ah, the more the merrier!
    I am kind of curious as to why both sides found the meal you prepared to be weird. I am even more curious as to what kind of foods Greeks find weird that is found commonly here in America. Considering I have very limited knowledge of Greek cuisine, outside of Renzios that is (a fast food Greek restaurant), I don’t exactly know what they consider to be unusual.

    I actually laughed about the request for feta cheese, olives, and salad. And I could easily relate to the olive oil- except not specifically with olive oil. In my family we pour either ketchup or ranch dressing over EVERYTHING, so I found it rather humorous that we have that in common, although I believe that olive oil is much healthier than the condiments we use here!

    Overall I just loved the tone of this post, how relaxed and welcoming it all seemed!



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