Christmas (Χριστούγεννα) on Hydra
While not quite as prominent as Easter, or Pascha, Christmas is still an important holiday celebrated on Hydra, as witnessed by the festive lights and other decorations adorning the harbor, as well as lamp posts, railings, and shop and house windows throughout the town. The festive season lasts from November 30 to January 6 (Epiphany). December 25 and 26 are public holidays in Greece; Christmas itself is celebrated with a feast, traditionally featuring pork and large, sweet loaves of χριστόψωμο (Christ bread) decorated with the cross. In Greek, Christmas is known as Christougena (Χριστούγεννα), and people wish each other a merry Christmas with the words “Kala Christougenna” (Καλά Χριστούγεννα).
Κάλαντα: Greek Christmas Carols
Like most Greek folk music (δημοτική μουσική), Christmas carols date back to the Byzantine era and are still mostly sung in the pure katharevousa form of the Greek language. The word κάλαντα derives from the Latin calenda, meaning the start of the month.
At Christmas time, children across the land visit households and shops in their villages or towns, triangles in hand. They ask, “Να τα πούμε;” (“Shall we sing?”), and wait for a nod of permission. Once the carol is over, the youngsters say to the home or shop owner, “Και του Χρόνου, Χρόνια Πολλά” (essentially “Many happy returns”). In return, the carolers receive sweets or, more typically, a coin or two.