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Christmas in Greece

Traditionally, the Christmas holiday period in Greece lasts 12 days, until January 6, which marks the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Theophany (Epiphany).
There are many customs associated with the Christmas holidays, some of which are relatively recent, “imported” from other parts of the world (like eating turkey on Christmas day and decorating the Christmas tree).
The modern Christmas tree entered Greece in the luggage of the country’s first king, Otto of Greece, who ascended to the throne in 1833 – yet, the tree did not become popular until the 1940s.
In the past, Greeks decorated small Christmas boats in honour of St. Nicholas. Today, they are increasingly choosing to decorate boats, instead of trees, reviving this age-old Christmas tradition. Undoubtedly, celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Greece is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Xmas: A Word of Greek Origin
Where did “Xmas” come from? Some transliterations of Greek spell Christos as “Xristos.” The “X” stood in for the first letter of the word Christ (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ).
“Xmas” has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X represents the Greek letter X (chi). While in modern times Xmas is regarded as a kind of slang, it was originally considered to be a perfectly respectful.
Christmas (“Χριστούγεννα”), the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus is one of the most joyful days of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Christmas Elves
Greece’s hobgoblins are called “kallikántzari,” friendly but troublesome little creatures which look like elves. Kallikantzari live deep down inside the earth and come to surface only during the 12-day period from Christmas until Epiphany. While on the earth’s surface, they love to hide in houses, slipping down chimneys and frightening people in various ways.
Throughout Greece, there are customs and numerous rituals performed to keep these hobgoblins away. In Epirus, residents place twelve spindles in front of the fireplace to prevent the kalikantzari from climbing down the chimney.
On Christmas Eve, in the town of Grevena, people place a large log in the corner of the house and set it alight. As the fire burns, lasting until the Feast of the Epiphany, it protects the family from the naughty kalikantzari. On the island of Cephalonia, women burn incense at the front door of their houses making the sign of the cross in order to repel these undesirable “guests.”
The “kallikántzari” disappear on the day of Epiphany when all the waters are blessed, and they return to the earth’s core.
Sweets & Treats
Traditional culinary delights symbolise good luck in the New Year and adorn the white-clothed tables. “Melomakarona” (honey cookies) and “kourabiedes” (sugar cookies with almonds) are the most characteristic. In the past, melomakarona were made exclusively for Christmas, while kourabiedes were prepared for the New Year.
Today, this distinction is not observed anymore and both melomakarona and kourabiedes are prepared and consumed throughout the festive season.
Another traditional custom that dates back to the Byzantine times is the slicing of the Vassilopita (St.Basil’s pie or New Year Cake). The person who finds the hidden coin in his/her slice of the cake, is considered to be lucky for the rest of the year.
At the meal table there is also a special decorated round loaf called “Vasilopsomo” or St. Basil’s bread -which is really identical in form to the “Christopsomo” or “Christ bread” eaten on Christmas Day – and the “Photitsa” or “Lights’ bread” that is eaten on Epiphany.
“Kalanda” or Carols
The singing of Christmas carols (or kalanda, in Greek) is a custom which is preserved in its entirety to this day. On Christmas and New Year Eve, children go from house to house in groups of two or more singing the carols, accompanied usually by the sounds of the musical instrument “triangle,” but also guitars, accordions, lyres and harmonicas.
Until some time ago, carollers were rewarded with pastries but nowadays they are usually given money. Listen to some sound extracts with Greek Christmas carols (Kalanda) from Ikaria Island. Things to Do, Places to Go…. 
A Christmas spirit is taking over the squares and streets of the country’s major cities, as local authorities organise a variety of events and festivities, culminating with New Year’s Eve countdown parties in central squares.
Festivities in Athens revolve around Syntagma Square and its Christmas tree, with daily concerts throughout the season, while the National Garden turns into storybook Magical Forest for children.
Thessaloniki runs the country’s biggest Christmas village: the Helexpo pavilions are hosting Christmas Magic City, featuring shows, workshops and a big Christmas market.
The north-western city of Kastoria celebrates with “ragoutsaria,” the local carnival that starts on New Year’s Day, with every neighbourhood forming a carnival group, complete with brass band. In Agios Nikolaos, Crete, the New Year will come from the sea, with the New Year’s Eve party at the port, and Santa arriving on a boat.
And Holiday Performances
Venues and clubs participate in the Christmas spirit with special holiday performances.
The National Opera’s Christmas rich programme includes the Snow Queen ballet and Hansel and Gretel opera for children.
The Athens Concert Hall hosts the Bolshoi Theatre Academy on December 22-29, in a much-awaited performance of the Nutcracker, and the London Community Gospel Choir on December 27-28.
The recently inaugurated Onassis Cultural Centre presents Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée and Victoria Chaplin in their phantasmagoric yet poetic Invisible Circus, on December 28-30 and January 1-2.
At the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, on December 27 & 28, the Sounds of Christmas Go Baroque: a festive concert featuring Baroque Concertos.
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

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Εκδηλώσεις “Ευρωπαϊκής Ημέρας Γλωσσών” (Βαρσοβία, 20-27/9/2010)- Συμμετοχή Γραφείου Τύπου Βαρσοβίας

Οι φετινές εκδηλώσεις της «Ευρωπαϊκής Ημέρας Γλωσσών 2010» πραγματοποιήθηκαν στη Βαρσοβία από τις 20 έως τις 27 Σεπτεμβρίου.
Το Γραφείο Τύπου, για μία ακόμη χρονιά, συμμετείχε στη διοργάνωση των εκδηλώσεων προβολής των ευρωπαϊκών γλωσσών, εκδηλώσεις που στοχεύουν στην ενημέρωση του πολωνικού κοινού για τον γλωσσικό και πολιτιστικό πλούτο των χωρών της Ευρώπης. Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ημέρα Γλωσσών θεσπίστηκε από το Συμβούλιο της Ευρώπης το 2001.
Διοργανωτές των εκδηλώσεων ήταν δεκατρείς χώρες, μέλη του EUNIC Cluster Βαρσοβίας (European Union National Institutes for Culture): Ελλάδα (Γραφείο Τύπου Ελληνικής Πρεσβείας), Εσθονία (Πρεσβεία Εσθονίας), Ιρλανδία (Πρεσβεία Ιρλανδίας), Μεγ. Βρετανία (British Council), Βέλγιο (Πρεσβεία Βελγίου), Δανία (Πολιτιστικό Ινστιτούτο Δανίας), Γερμανία (Goethe-Institut), Πορτογαλία (Ινστιτούτο Camoes), Γαλλία (Γαλλικό Ινστιτούτο), Ιταλία (Ιταλικό Ινστιτούτο), Αυστρία (Αυστριακό Ινστιτούτο), Ρουμανία (Ρουμανικό Ινστιτούτο), Ρωσία (Ρωσικό Κέντρο Επιστήμης και Πολιτισμού).
Στη διοργάνωση συμμετείχαν, επίσης, το EUNIC Cluster Βαρσοβίας, η Αντιπροσωπεία της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής στην Πολωνία, το πολωνικό Ίδρυμα για την Ανάπτυξη του Εκπαιδευτικού Συστήματος, το Πανεπιστήμιο Βαρσοβίας, το Εκπαιδευτικό Τμήμα του Δήμου Βαρσοβίας, το Κρατικό Εθνογραφικό Μουσείο στη Βαρσοβία, η Δημόσια Βιβλιοθήκη της συνοικίας Praga (Δήμος Βαρσοβίας), το πολωνικό Κέντρο για την Ανάπτυξη της Εκπαίδευσης, η πολωνική Κρατική Επιτροπή για την Πιστοποίηση της Επάρκειας της Πολωνικής ως Ξένης Γλώσσας. Οι εκδηλώσεις τελούσαν υπό την αιγίδα του πολωνικού Υπουργείου Εθνικής Παιδείας, του πολωνικού Υπουργείου Επιστήμης και Ανώτερης Εκπαίδευσης, της Δημάρχου Βαρσοβίας και της Πρυτάνεως του Πανεπιστημίου Βαρσοβίας.
Η απήχηση των εκδηλώσεων τις προηγούμενες χρονιές οδήγησε τους διοργανωτές στην απόφαση για την φετινή διοργάνωση πολυήμερων εκδηλώσεων, με ποικίλο περιεχόμενο.  
Το πλήρες πρόγραμμα, που περιελάμβανε, μεταξύ άλλων, ημερίδα, μαθήματα γλωσσών, σεμινάρια, φεστιβάλ ταινιών, street game, κ.ά., μπορεί να αναζητηθεί στην ηλεκτρονική σελίδα των εκδηλώσεων www.edj.waw.pl

Przemek Kordos, Maria Mondelou, Pantelis Gianoulis at the Greek stand

Η ελληνική συμμετοχή στις εκδηλώσεις, η οποία περιελάμβανε μεταξύ άλλων φεστιβάλ ταινιών, μάθημα ελληνικής γλώσσας, σεμινάριο για το ζεϊμπέκικο, ελληνικό περίπτερο κ.ά., διοργανώθηκε από τη Γραμματέα Επικοινωνίας, Μαρία Μονδέλου.
Αναλυτικότερα, η ελληνική συμμετοχή είχε ως εξής: Continue reading

Αγώνες Special Olympics στην Πολωνία (18-24/9/2010)-Ελληνική συμμετοχή

Από τις 18 ως τις 24 Σεπτεμβρίου πραγματοποιήθηκαν στη Βαρσοβία οι Ευρωπαϊκοί Αγώνες Special Olympics, με την συμμετοχή 1.600 αθλητών από 57 χώρες της Ευρώπης και της Ευρασίας.
Στους αγώνες συμμετείχε και ελληνική αποστολή 86 αθλητών, δηλώνοντας με την παρουσία της – πέρα από το μήνυμα της αποδοχής της διαφορετικότητας και της ενθάρρυνσης της συμμετοχής ατόμων με διανοητική αναπηρία σε κοινωνικές και αθλητικές δραστηριότητες – την ενεργό προετοιμασία της Ελλάδας για τους επόμενους Παγκόσμιους Αγώνες Special Olympics (XIII Special Olympics World Summer Games) που θα πραγματοποιηθούν στην Αθήνα το καλοκαίρι του 2011.
Στην τελετή έναρξης των Αγώνων Special Olympics στις 18 Σεπτεμβρίου, παρευρέθηκε και ο έλληνας ευρωβουλευτής Γιώργος Σταυρακάκης, ο οποίος σημείωσε ότι η «Φλόγα της Ελπίδας» μετά την αφή της στην Αλεξανδρούπολη στις 5 Σεπτεμβρίου ταξίδεψε  σε οκτώ ευρωπαϊκές πόλεις για να φθάσει τελικά στη Βαρσοβία για την τελετή έναρξης των Αγώνων.
Ο κ. Σταυρακάκης υπογράμμισε την σημασία των Αγώνων Special Olympics ως το μεγαλύτερο αθλητικό γεγονός για άτομα με διανοητικές δυσκολίες, τονίζοντας την αναγκαιότητα στήριξης –και μέσω του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου- των προσεχών Παγκόσμιων Αγώνων Special Olympics στην Αθήνα, που στόχο έχουν όχι μόνο να ενισχύσουν περαιτέρω τα ολυμπιακά ιδεώδη της άμιλλας και του εθελοντισμού, αλλά και να βοηθήσουν στην ένταξη στο κοινωνικό σύνολο περιθωριοποιημένων ανθρώπων, καθώς και στην κοινωνική συνοχή.

Poems on the Underground – Greek contemporary poetry

The Press Office of the Greek Embassy in Warsaw promotes the contemporary poetry of Greece and participates to   “Poems on the Underground” events (6-30 September 2010).
“Poems on the Underground” (Wiersze w Metrze) has been inspired by other similar projects  in many cities: Dublin, Paris, New York, Barcelona, Stockholm, Stuttgard and Moscow, organised for the first time in London in 1986.
Wiersze w Metrze promotes contemporary European poetry in public city spaces, through happenings, haiku competition, poetry city game and a performing poetry festival.
Many cultural institutes and embassies participate to the project, which takes place under the auspices of the the mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz.
Greek contemporary poetry will be represented by two acclaimed poets, Kiki Dimoula and Nasos Vagenas.
Kiki Dimoula has recently been awarded the European Literature Prize for 2010. Her poetry has been translated into English, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Spanish and many other languages.
Dimoula’s poetry is haunted by the existential dissolution of the post-world era. Her central themes are hopelessness, insecurity, absence and oblivion. Using diverse subjects and twisting grammar in unconventional ways, she accentuates the power of the words through astonishment and surprise, but always manages to retain a sense of hope.
Nasos Vagenas, professor of Theory and Critique of Literature in the Department of Theatre Studies of the University of Athens, in 2005 was awarded with the State Poetry Prize for his poetic collection ‘Stefanos’.
His poetic work includes the books: ‘Field of Mars’, ‘Biography’, ‘Roxani’s Knees’, ‘Wandering of a non-traveller’, ‘The Fall of the Flying’, ‘Barbarous Odes’ , ‘The Fall of the Flying B’, ‘Dark Ballads and Other Poems’, ‘Stefanos’.
His poetry has been translated into English, German, Italian, Dutch, Romanian, Serbian.
Two poems of Kiki Dimoula and Nasos Vagenas have been translated in polish language for “Wiersze w Metrze” by the professors and students of the Department of Greek Studies of the University of Warsaw (Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies “Artes Liberales”).

Eminent Greek Authors Digitised

Tributes in the form of cultural events and publications prepared over the last few years by the National Book Centre to commemorate birth or death anniversaries of eminent Greek writers now take a permanent place in the Centre’s digital archive.
Authors such as Stratis Tsirkas and M. Karagatsis, as well as poets like Nikos Kavvadias have their own website in the progressively increasing Book Centre’s electronic archive of Modern Greek literature. The latest addition bears the name of poet Yiannis Ritsos, whose 100-year birth anniversary was observed in 2009.
National Book Center: Modern Authors Archives in Greek
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

“You in Greece” campaign – Facts about Greece

  Facts about Greece

· Greece is a safe country

Supportive data: According to Legatum Prosperity Index, Greece faces comparatively few security challenges. Domestic security is favorable. Moreover, according to Eurostat, Greece is a country with a relatively low rate of criminality. The feeling of security is well established in society.
· Greece is an attractive destination.
This comes not only due to its physical beauty but mostly due to the “value for money” relationship in the provided services.
Supportive data: According to a poll, conducted in a population of 1200 people,52% of the sample believes that the quality of travel services offered in Greece are of very good standard and 42% believes that the travel services offered in Greece rival those offered in other touristdeveloped tourist markets.

· Greece is a western democracy and the majority of Greek society supports government policy.
Supportive data: A recent research conducted by Kapa Focus research company on behalf of the weekly Newspaper ‘To Vima’, shows that 55,2% of Greeks support the austerity measures imposed by the Greek Government.
·  Demonstrations are strictly local and limited events/occurrences. They take place mostly in the center of Athens, in a specific and controlled area. The mainland regions and the islands of the Greek Archipelago, where the vast majority of tourists go, are not affected at all.
Supportive data: According to Eurostat, Greece is a favourite destination. Especially, in South Aegean and Ionian Islands, it appears that 48.168 stays and 33.304 per 1000 citizens took place, a proof of satisfaction for the Greek touristic product.
· Greece is a tourist country and Greeks know the importance of hospitality.
Supportive data: Zeus, the King of the Greek Gods, according to the Greek Mythology, named as Xenios (the one who offers hospitality) Zeus.
·  The overall number of demonstrations in Greece is lower than the E.U average.
Supportive data:All demonstrations occurred in Athens, in specific and isolated areas. In their vast majority they were peaceful.

· The picture that global media paint is, to say the least, in many cases exaggerating. In many occasions, library images were re-broadcasted as live feeds.
Supportive data: Greece is a pluralist, democratic western European country. Media freedom is protected and encouraged. During the last two weeks Greece hosted more than 300 foreign journalists.
(Greek National Tourism Organisation)

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010

It seems that ages have gone by since Maria Callas stunned the audience by performing ‘Norma’ at the Epidaurus theatre as part of events celebrating the Greek festival in 1960. The 2010 Greek Festival, which opens today, encompasses a variety of artistic expressions.  

Its aim is to present contemporary artists from around the globe and acquaint the world public with both innovative and pervasive trends of modern artistic creations. 
The festival spans from June to mid –August with old and new venues hosting the events, such as the Herodus Attikus theatre, the Benaki Museum, and the Building H at the Peiraios 260 complex.
This year music lovers will have the opportunity to enjoy Rufus Wainwright in a one-man-show on June 5 at the Lycabettus Hill Theatre.
In the first half, he will present his newly- released album, while in the second, he will play major hits from his entire career. 
Greek Festival: Programme & Greek News Agenda: Athens Festival 2009
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)