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Kala Christougena - Greek Christmas Greetings

It's Christmastime in Greece - but what do you say to your Greek friends and hosts? Merry Christmas - Kala Christougena Happy New Year Chronia Polla - "Happy New Year", literally "Many happy years". Sometimes written as Hronia Pollia or similar variations. Eftikismenos o kenourisos kronos - Happy New Year (formal)

The photo is "The enchanted forest in the National Garens."

The Greek Origin of Xmas
Where did Xmas come from? Some transliterations of Greek spell Christos (or Kristos) as Xristos. The "X" stood in for Christos. While in modern times we regard Xmas as a kind of slang, it was originally considered to be a perfectly respectful abbreviation, especially as it included a form of the cross in the shape of the "X".

Athens may not be on the most popular list for Christmas destinations, however it offers its visitors a wide range of choices, transforming Christmas into a unique experience! To begin with, Christmas in Athens is not necessarily accompanied by the bitter cold and snow. Outings are easily carried out, and hot chocolate may even be drunk at tables on… sidewalks, whilst browsing at the mimics and jugglers amongst the sounds of wandering musicians! Whether they play classical Christmas melodies or Greek traditional carols with a santouri or a clarinet, the outcome is the same. They create this particular spirit of joy and sentiment, which we have all associated Christmas with, since childhood.

Just like all large cities during the Christmas and New Year’s season, so does Athens organize various festivities and events in many locations within the city. The center of festivity is Syndagma. At the square, in front of the entrance to the Metro, the city Christmas tree is set up, as well as the cherished by all, “Santa Claus village.”
Small wooden houses where dried fruits and nuts {the nougat is wonderful}, sweets and of course… chocolates, are sold! No-one can resist this setting, especially when prepared in front of your eyes. Queues for one serving of crème broule! Extravagance is a must! Sample the Greek traditional sweets such as “melomakarona” and “kourambiedes” and drink plenty of wine!

The merry and festive mood is demonstrated everywhere. Decorated streets, smiling faces, lights, music, children being photographed with Father Christmas, balloons, fairy floss, candy, and not to forget the freshly roasted chestnuts and of course, the lottery ticket vendors, who try to convince you that the new year will most definitely be YOUR YEAR!!
Always someone from somewhere is calling you, and without yet managing to turn your head, somewhere else, a little further down, a voice “captures” you again. You laugh without apparent reason, you are polite to everyone, you don’t get uptight with the pushing and shoving… you love everything!! It’s Christmas time!!

The whole festive atmosphere is completed with the carousel, set up by the municipality of Athens, at the square. Horses and royal coaches await the young and old for a round. Needless to say, the queue is unbelievably long. Besides, the ride is free! Opposite, Ermou Street is “jam-packed” with people {and impossible to walk through}… everyone loaded with an assortment of shopping bags.

At Kotzia Square, opposite the City Hall of Athens, a second carousel is situated, as well as a large market selling books, jewelry, handicrafts, rugs, candy, and lots and lots of other things! A few meters further down, Omonia Square transforms into something magical every year.

Another place which gathers a lot of people within the city is Zappeio. An actual ice skating rink is set up under the stairs, offering hours of joy and entertainment for all ages.
And this is not all. Every day in every corner of the city, something is always happening. Concerts, theatrical shows, performances, all of it free {!!!} for the residents and visitors of Athens. Even the city’s large museums “put on their festive mask” At the National Art Gallery, the “Athens- Paris “exhibition is to be hosted, and in January, at the National Sculpture Gallery in Goudi, artworks belonging to the sculptor Yiannouli Halepa will be exhibited.

The festivities culminate on New Year’s Eve, when the City Mayor declares the start of the New Year with fireworks, music and song from popular artists. The party lasts until the early hours!
For your stay, there are plenty of hotels at your disposal, all over Athens. For those who would like their hotel accommodation to be included in their memories they will cherish from Athens, then the Dorian Inn is the ideal choice. It combines luxury with style, and it is located at Omonia, in the center of the city, five minutes from the metro and the train station and only 20 minutes away on foot to Syndagma. It provides the comfort and service one expects from a 3 * hotel.

On the other hand, for those who would like to “invest” their money in other things other than the hotel, then we suggest the Adams hotel. It is simple, inexpensive, quiet and friendly, and situated in a most privileged position – in the heart of Plaka! This means that you can save money and trouble in getting around, and cafes and taverns are only a breath away! Also, if you wish to leave the immediate area, then Amalias Avenue is only three minutes away, where you can easily find a taxi.

For those who would like to see a little Christmas snow and have 3-4 days at your disposal, then Arachova is the most popular winter destination. It belongs to the county of Viotia, located three hours away from Athens, and where you will find the Parnasos Ski center, with its large slopes offering all levels of difficulty. There are many hotels and guesthouses there, and you may also visit the Oracle of Delphi, located nearby. If you are fond of snowboarding, I would suggest the Ski center at Mainalou, in the county of Arcadia, whilst at Kalavryta, you will find one of the best ski centers in Greece. The actual attraction for the visitors however is the rack and pinion railway, which has operated the route from Kalavryta to Diakofto since 1896, through a landscape of unrivalled beauty. Just that it passes through a gorge… is truly a dream!

Although I haven’t mentioned anything about the islands, I do not want you to think that they “close up” during the winter months. It is a fact that many of them are not easily accessible during winter; however, there are many possibilities for those who prefer the tranquility and the isolation.

Athens offers it all! Whatever you are looking for, you may find within a few hours; Island or snow, tranquility or bustling life, solitude or “vivacity” it’s there … and it’s waiting!!!

For more information on the Magical Christmas programme in Athens, please go to our Specials channel.

Monday, December 24, 2007