Traditional symbol behind Christmas boats in Greece

During the Festive Season all around Greece you will find Christmas boats (karavakia) decorated with lights and ornaments, which are very traditional and symbolic.

The Karavaki symbolises sailing towards the new life that follows the birth of Jesus Christ and with Greece being so connected to the sea, decorating a boat during Christmas also serves as a token of gratitude to the marines and sailors who have devoted their lives to the sea for their country.

Sailors worked hard, away at sea for long periods of time while the women of the Greek islands awaited for the return of their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.  The return of loved ones was a reason for celebration and families would decorate wooden boats. It was a special way of saying welcome home.

Decorating boats spread through much of the country and became a custom during the holidays. Wooden boats were decorated with lights and ornaments. These Christmas boats were placed near a door or fireplace with the Christmas boat’s bow pointing inwards. This represented the successful journey towards the mainland. Sometimes, coins or gold objects were placed inside the boat, symbolising a household’s wealth.

Children also went door to door with these wooden boats happily singing Greek Christmas carols.  Neighbours would drop in little treats inside each boat, like sweets or candy, as they sang.

In Greece’s main cities of Athens and Thessaloniki and on all main town squares and islands you will find beautiful Greek Christmas boats lighting up at night.

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