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December Newsletter
This Month 
Christmas Food and Festivities
Christmas Gift Ideas
Featured Destination:
Cephalonia Island
Saint Namedays in December.
December Recipe.
Suggestions & Comments.
Subscription Information.
Lamb ParcelsDecember Recipe:
Honey Dipped

Christmas Cookies
8 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups oil
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brandy
2 tsp. grated orange rind
The Syrup  
2 cups honey
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
The Garnish  
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves

Sift together flour, soda and baking powder into a kneading basin, and make a well in the center. Blend the remaining ingredients at high speed in a food processor or blender. Pour the mixture into the well. Gradually incorporate the flour from the sides of the well into the liquid and knead lightly until a soft and greasy dough is formed. Avoid overkneading. On a wooden surface, roll out the dough into  a 1/3 inch thick sheet. Use cookies cutters to cut out the dough into ovals, squares or rounds. Arrange them on ungreased baking sheets and decorate the tops by drawing and pressing the prongs of a fork across the surface. Bake in a 350˚F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden browned. Meanwhile, combine the syrup ingredients into a large pan and bring them to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Skim off the froth and pour the syrup ingredients into a large pan and bring them to a boil. Decrease heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Skim off the froth and pour the syrup over cookies as soon as they come out the oven. When all the syrup is absorbed, turn them over and allow to cool completely. Mix together walnuts, cinnamon and cloves in a bowl. Picking up, one cookie at a time, turn them over and sprinkle the tops with the walnut mixture. Place the cookies on a serving dish and keep covered with plastic wrap to prevent from drying out. They keep well in room temperature up to 3 weeks.
Excerpts from:
"Greek Pastries and Desserts"

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 Christmas Food and Festivities:
 The Kálanda

On Christmas Eve Day in Greece, young people, carrying triangles, small drums, and harmonicas, go in groups from house to house, singing the kálanda (carols) abut the birth of Christ. (See "Kalanda Christouyennon" below) Before singing the children ask the traditional question, "Na ta poúne?" ("May we sing it for you?"). (The question is asked so that songs will not be sung at the house in mourning.) Some children carry small ships of cardboard, wood, or tin in honor of St. Basil who came to Greece by sea from his home in Caesarea to bring presents to the children. Decorated with the Greek flag and the word "Ella," the ships hold the sweets and money given to each caroler at the end of the kálanda. Sometimes the children are welcomed into the house for treats. In America, this is a popular activity for Greek school students.

The most traditional Christmas cookies are the white, powdery kourabiéthes and the rich melomakárona. The cloves in the kourabiéthes represent the spices of the wise men.

Christmas Bread (Chirstopsomo)
Christmas bread (Christopsomo - pron. Christopsomo) or kouloúra tou Christoú (round bread of Christ) graces the Christmas table. It is usually a round loaf often made with the same ingredients as Ester bread. Nuts and dried fruits may be added. Some families attend church on Christmas Eve and return home for a meal that begins with the cutting of the Christopsomo by the head of the household. Others wait until a main meal on Christmas Day. The head of the house makes the sign of the cross on the bread with a knife while saying, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, " and then cuts a piece for each person with a wish of "Kalá Christoúyena" ("Good Christmas") or "Chrónia pollá"  ("Many years"). (See recipe below)

In Cyprus, special bread and pastries covered with sesame seeds and a cross on top are prepared. For blessings on the house, one will be hung from the beam of a ceiling or maybe in front of the home ikonostási through Christmas or New Year's Day.

Wish someone a Merry Christmas with "Kalá Christoúyena" ("Good Christmas") or "Chrónia pollá"  ("Many years") or "Ke tou chrónou" ("And to next year").

Most Greek Americans exchange gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, not at New Year's as in Greece. Greek-American youngsters look to Santa Claus, not St. Basil, for their presents.

Name Day Celebrations
In Greece Christmas Day is a very popular time to hold open-house name day parties to honor persons with names such as Chris, Christos, Christine, Emmanuel, and Emmanuela. This is not widely done in the United States.

Kalikántzari Superstition
An old folk belief in Greece holds that mischievous goblins called kalikántzari appear during Dodecameron. The kalikantzari live beneath the surface of the earth and chop away at a large tree trunk, the foundation of the earth. With their chopping they attempt to destroy God's work. They almost succeed when they hear the noise created by the birth of Christ. They come to earth on December 25 to disrupt people's lives with pranks and tricks such as spilled milk, disappearing keys, and broken glass. It is common to blame mishaps this time of the year on the kalikántzari.

Fire, light, and holy water protect people from the kalikantzari.
On Christmas Eve some people in rural Greece light a fire to prevent them from coming down the chimney. This Christ log (skarkántzalos) burns until Epiphany. Sometimes large bonfires are built in the villages of Greece, and people carry a candle with them at night for protection. The little imps roam the earth until Epiphany when holy water cleans them away.

Excerpt from the book Greek Traditions and Customs

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The traditional folk decoration of Greek homes, the pomegranate is cherished as a symbol of joyous times and good fortune, as well as of fertility and prosperity. This veneration of the fruit is rooted in ancient times, and this once ancient practice continues today, finding new meaning in every household.
The pomegranate was a magical fruit in Greek mythology, and was associated 
with three Gods: Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hera. In ancient Athens, at the time of
the ceremonies (the “Thesmoforia”) honoring Demeter, the Goddess of Fertility,
Athenians ate pomegranates in order to gain fertility and prosperity. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty, was according to myth the first to plant the pomegranate tree, on Cyprus. Hera, the Mother of the Gods, is linked most strongly to the fruit in Greek mythology, as she was the Goddess of the home, and the protector of marriage and childbirth. In her temple in Argos there was a golden statue of the Goddess, and in her right hand she held a pomegranate, signifying her connection with this source of fecundity and abundance.


Not only the ancient Greeks, but rather all of the peoples of the East venerated the pomegranate. In their religious ceremonies the Ancient Egyptians offered pomegranates to their Gods. According to the Bible, King Solomon maintained a garden full of pomegranate trees, and, finally, the Prophet Mohammed wrote in the Koran, “The pomegranate purifies the body of jealousy and hate.”
Through the artistry and craftsmanship of Epalladio, the pomegranate, this ancient symbol of joy, can again bring such health and good fortune to today’s homes.
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Christmas and New Year's
Stories by A. Papadiamautis Ages 9 - 14

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Most Beautiful
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Does Aléxander the Great Live?

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 Featured Destination: Cephalonia Island

Photo of Alonnisos IslandThe largest Island in the Ionian, Cephalonia is a land of contrasts. Just for starters don't miss the view from the castle at Assos. On your left, spread out beneath your feet, lies the enchanting turquoise bay of Myrtos renowned for its afternoon sun and soft white sand. Or you might swim In the crystal clear water of Poros. You can also go up to the top of Mt. Enos (1.628 metres above sea level). Its slopes are covered with tall, cedar-like fir trees that grow nowhere else In the world. On other parts of the island you'll run Into groves filled with olive or orange trees and hillsides studded with grapevines; breathtaking golden beaches and deep coves,. rugged rocky shores or visit famous caves.

The cave at Melissani is actually a partially covered subterranean lake. When the sun is directly overhead, its rays strike the ultramarine water, shattering Into a myriad phantasmagorical colours. Drogorati, on the other hand, is known for its unusual stalagtites.

In the area of Lassi, 1,5 kilometres from Argostoli, are the famous Katavothres (swallowholes), a rare geological phenomenon. Here sea water enters openings in the rock and "disappears". Only recently were scientists able to trace It; they found that It travels northeast through underground all the way across the Island finally to emerge at Melissani, near the village of Karavomilos, opposite Sami. (In the past water poured In at such a rate It was used to power two enormous sea mills.)

Of the old, Immensely attractive city of Argostoli, the capital, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, very little remains; one or two houses, the arched bridge stretching across the lagoon and the obelisk at Its centre, which commemorates the date of its construction. During your stay there you could visit Its interesting museums (Archaeological Museum: tel.: 28300; Folk Art Museum: tel.: 28835), its Library: tel.: 28221 and swim at the famous nearby beaches of Makris and Platis Gialos.

Lixouri, Cephalonia's second largest town, has a peaceful atmosphere, a lovely 19th century mansion-museum, and vestiges of the ancient city of Pall. The beaches to the south are among the best on the island.

South of Argostoli near the village of Domata lies the church of Panagia with an exceptional carved wooden Icon screen.

NE of Domata the Monastery of Agios Andreas near the village of Peratata has a wonderful icon collection.

Above the monastery looms the castle of St. George built by the Venetians In 1504. Within its walls there Is a small piazza, the Kanoni, and north of It the ruins of the Catholic church of St. Nicholas. The view of the fertile valley and Its villages spread out below the castle Is splendid.

The area of Katelios In the southeast of the island, has two outstanding beaches, one near the seaside hamlet of Katelio and the other at Skala. In this area were discovered the ruins of a 3rd century B.C. building from the height of the Roman era, perhaps the home of a wealthy Roman businessman, which contains excellent, well-preserved mosaics.

On the east side of the island are Poros, Sami, and Agia Eflmia with Its pebbled beach.

Fiskardo, the northen most harbour on Cephalonia, has kept its traditional colour. Lying opposite and very close to Ithaca, it is surrounded by a thick cypress glade.

On the west side of the Island is Assos, a charming village built astride the isthmus of the peninsula of the same name, famous for its picturesque castle.

The good road network, which covers the whole island, makes it easy to explore Cephalonia from one side to the other: its deep blue waters, steep bare cliffs, lush valleys, picturesque, secluded villages.

Get the map of Cephalonia here...

Get the travel guide to Cephalonia here...

Visit more parts of Greece with the Cadogan guide

Thinking of Greek Island Hopping? Here's the complete guide.
Greek Island Hopping 2003

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 Saints' Namedays in December








8  9
Agias Annis
10 11
Eustratiou, Loukias

Daniel, Dionysiou Zakunthou
Sevastianou & Zois
Christmas Day
Emmanouil, Synaksi Theotokou


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