Greek Christmas Carols , New Year
and Epiphany Carols
Children singing the Christmas carols in Greece
Painting by Nikiforos Lytras
A very old custom which remains today practically unchanged is the Greek Christmas
carols, which is called calanda in Greek. Children, in
groups of two or more, still make the rounds of houses singing carols,
usually accompanied by the triangle or guitars, accordions or harmonicas.
The children go from house to house, knock on doors and ask: "shall
we say them?" If the homeowner's answer is yes, the kids sing
the Christmas carols for several minutes before finishing up with
the wish, "And for the next year, many happy returns." Years
ago the homeowners offered the children holiday sweets and pastries,
but today they usually give them some money.
The carols are sung on the eves of Christmas, New Year and Epiphany,
and they are different for each holiday.
History of Christmas Carols in Greece
children singing the Christmas carols in Greece in the 50s
The word calanda stems from the Latin calenda, which
translates as "the beginning of the month." It is believed
that the history of caroling goes deep into the past and connects
with ancient Greece. In fact, they have even found carols written
in those distant past days which are similar to the ones sung today.
In ancient times the word for carols was Eiresioni , and
children of that era held an effigy of a ship which depicted the
arrival of the god Dionysos. Other times they held an olive or laurel
branch decorated with red and white threads, on which they would
tie the offerings of the homeowners.
This Eiresioni song from the Homeric period can still
be heard today - with small changes - in the carols of Thrace:
In this house we came of the rich-landlord
May its doors open for the wealth to roll in
The wealth and happiness and desired peace should
And may its clay jugs fill with honey, wine and
And the kneading tub with rising dough.
- Following are the Greek carols for each of the three holidays: Christmas Carols, New Year Carols and Epiphany Carols.