Christmas in the Diaspora can be bittersweet for many of us who have loved ones in Greece. However, it’s also a time of year we can embrace our unique identity, a combination of two cultures, and share it with others.
One of the main challenges Greeks face in the lead up to Christmas is the lack of a ‘festive feeling’. For most of us, regardless of culture and nationality, the Christmas spirit tends to be based quite solidly on what we remember growing up. So, all the sights, smells and tunes carved in our memories tend to create the essence of Christmas. Many of us grew up in the Diaspora, but for those of us who grew up in Greece, being away from where we celebrated Christmas as a child somehow interferes with our seasonal spirit. Without our favourite Christmas treats like melomakarouna and kourapiedes in steady supply, spotting our neighbours little decorated Christmas boats outside their front door, or hearing children sing Kalanda, it can feel decidedly un-festive. In addition, many of us live in climates that are in direct opposite rotation with that of Greece’s. It’s not easy to feel ‘Christmassy’ in the middle of summer.
Many of us in the Diaspora are blessed with family, friends and a strong community around us, and this is who we celebrate special occasions with. However, with some of our loved ones still back in Greece, Christmas can feel a little bittersweet. Fortunately, evolving technology enables us to “face-time” or Skype one another and share instant messages, photos and videos, so that it can feel almost like being together on these special occasions.
Although we live in the Diaspora, and are therefore usually keen to adapt to local flavours and methods in general, remember that there is a real sense of comfort, pride and identity in selecting some traditions from Christmas in Greece to add to your celebrations in the Diaspora. They also provide a great talking point for Greek children growing up in the Diaspora, and guests of yours who don’t have a Greek heritage.
Some ideas to incorporate Greece into your Christmas celebrations include baking a loaf of Christopsomo to share, followed by a traditional Greek leg of lamb on the BBQ, instead of turkey! You could find a recipe for Melomakarona and kourapiedes (or ask a favour of someone in your community who knows how to make it) to share with everyone after your meal. Don’t forget to attend your local Orthodox Church Christmas Day service – the sense of community and cheerful atmosphere is sure to bring some Christmas spirit to your day.
Celebrating Christmas in the Diaspora is a very special blessing. Not only do we have the opportunity to combine the best traditions from each culture, but we get to share them with others. Children learn more about their heritage, and the way their parents and grandparents celebrated Christmas. Everyone who attends such festivities, from any cultural background, have the chance to come together in joy and love – and this is the true meaning of Christmas, after all.