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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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Crete, the island of miracles

Crete, land of Daidalos and Ikaros, is the largest island of Greece, separating the Aegean from the Libyan Sea and marking the boundary between Europe and Africa. On Crete, the scenery is constantly changing.
Majestic mountains rise in its centre –the Lefka Ori, Psiloritis, Dikti– full of legends and history, while its plateaus are split by deep gorges, ending up in lush valleys.
This island’s fertile soil and towering peaks witnessed the development of one of the most important civilizations on earth, the Minoan (2800-1150 B.C.).
With its clear, warm sea, boundless beaches lined with tamarisks and mild starry nights, Crete is an idyllic place for vacation but for living as well, in bustling Iraklio, cosmopolitan Aghios Nikolaos, picturesque Rethymno or enchanting Chania.
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

2nd “London Greek Film Festival 2009” Awards

London Greek Film FestivalThe Press Office of the Greek Embassy in London, along with the

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"London Greek Film Festival" Awards

Hellenic Centre and the London office of the GNTO supported and co-organised the second London Greek Film Festival. Among the people who followed the festival’s events were artists, film makers, producers, members of the Academia, reporters and so on.
The London Greek Film Festival is a unique opportunity for the Greek culture to reach the British public, while contributing in promoting Greek films as well as new film makers and actors.
On Sunday 1st November the Odysseus awards ceremony took place at the Hellenic Centre. Key speakers at the ceremony were the Head of the Greek Press Office in London Mr Spyros Diamantis and the Head of the GNTO London Office Ms Sophia Panagiotaki.

STEFANOS MONDELOS

The film director Stefanos Mondelos

The Script Award for short film at the 2nd London Greek Film Festival 2009 was attributed to the script:  “Two Shoes on Wheels” of Stefanos Mondelos, based on the illustrated fairytale of Nikolaos Andrikopoulos (“Ellinika Grammata” editions).
This script was awarded for the second time recently, as it has received the 3rd Award for Adapted Script for short film by the Hellenic Book Center.

Τα βραβεία του: «2ου London Greek Film Festival»

Με στόχο την προβολή του ελληνικού κινηματογράφου, αλλά και γενικότερα την προβολή της χώρας μας στη Μεγάλη Βρετανία, πραγματοποιήθηκε φέτος στο Λονδίνο για δεύτερη συνεχή χρονιά από τις 30 Οκτωβρίου έως την 1η Νοεμβρίου το Φεστιβάλ Ελληνικού Κινηματογράφου, το οποίο συνδιοργανώθηκε από το Γ.Τ.Ε. Λονδίνου, το Hellenic Centre και τον ΕΟΤ.
Στα πλαίσια του Φεστιβάλ, το κοινό είχε την ευκαιρία να παρακολουθήσει 41 ταινίες μικρού μήκους – με αγγλικούς υπότιτλους – οι περισσότερες από τις οποίες παρουσιάστηκαν για πρώτη φορά στη Μεγάλη Βρετανία. Στις προβολές που πραγματοποιήθηκαν στις δύο ημέρες που διήρκεσε το Φεστιβάλ, συμπεριλαμβάνονταν ταινίες μυθοπλασίας, επιστημονικής φαντασίας, ντοκυμαντέρ, ταινίες κινουμένων σχεδίων (animation), ταινίες μικρού μήκους, και video art. Επίσης, παρουσιάστηκαν σενάρια για ταινίες επιστημονικής φαντασίας και για ταινίες μικρού μήκους.
Την πρώτη μέρα του Φεστιβάλ (Παρασκευή 30 Οκτωβρίου) παραγωγοί και σκηνοθέτες είχαν την ευκαιρία να λάβουν μέρος στο Informational Networking Event με τίτλο Shooting in Greece: Ένα εργαστήρι, στα πλαίσια του οποίου, οι συμμετέχοντες είχαν τη δυνατότητα να ενημερωθούν σε βάθος από τους αρμοδίους και να λάβουν κάθε είδους πληροφορίες όσον αφορά την κινηματογράφηση στην Ελλάδα, (επίσης πληροφορίες για ελληνικές εταιρείες παραγωγής, για σημεία ειδικού ενδιαφέροντος στην Ελλάδα, για χρηματοδοτήσεις κλπ). Το Φεστιβάλ περιλάμβανε επίσης συζητήσεις, παρουσιάσεις σεναρίων και διοργάνωση εργαστηρίων (workshops).
Την Κυριακή 1η Νοεμβρίου, ημέρα λήξης του Φεστιβάλ, απονεμήθηκαν στο Hellenic Centre τα βραβεία Odysseus. Κεντρικοί ομιλητές στην τελετή απονομής των βραβείων ήταν ο Σπύρος Διαμαντής, επικεφαλής του Γ.Τ.Ε. Λονδίνου, η Σοφία Παναγιωτάκη, Διευθύντρια του Γραφείου ΕΟΤ και ο Διευθυντής του Φεστιβάλ, Χρήστος Προσύλης.
Το Βραβείο Σεναρίου μικρού μήκους ταινίας στο 2nd London Greek Film Festival 2009 έλαβε το σενάριο “Δυό Παπούτσια με Καρότσι”  του Στέφανου Μονδέλου, βασισμένο στο ομώνυμο εικονογραφημένο παραμύθι του Νικόλαου Ανδρικόπουλου (εκδ. Ελληνικά Γράμματα). Το συγκεκριμένο σενάριο βραβεύεται για δεύτερη φορά, μετά το 3ο Βραβείο Διασκευασμένου Σεναρίου για ταινία μικρού μήκους που έλαβε εφέτος, στον Διαγωνισμό Διασκευασμένου Σεναρίου που διοργανώνεται για πέμπτη συνεχή χρονιά από το Εθνικό Κέντρο Βιβλίου.

Nikos Skalkotas: A Greek European

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    Vrontos Haris (ed.), Nikos Skalkotas: A Greek European“, Benaki Museum, 2009.  The book was published to mark the sixtieth anniversary since the death of major Greek composer Nikos Skalkotas (1904-1949).  A group of fourteen musicologists, composers, conductors, historians, critics and translators collaborated on this volume, under the supervision of composer Haris Vrontos, who also served as its artistic director. Nikos Skalkotas was one of the most important Greek composers of 20th-century music. A member of the Second Viennese School, he drew his influences from both the classical repertoire and Greek tradition. More Info: Wikipedia- Nikolaos Skalkotas; The Friends of Nikos Skalkottas`s Music Society & Feinberg-Skalkottas Society; Youtube: Skalkotas- Greek Dances “Epirot Dance” &”Kleftikos Dance (Photo:Skalkotas as a young violinist)

Record Price for Greek Art

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Some of the top names in the recent Greek Sale that took place at Sotheby’s in London on April 17 included Constantinos Volanakis, George Iakovides, and Nikolaos Gyzis. More specifically, Iakovides’ “Grandpa’s New Pipe” earned first place, sold for €664,535, a record sale for this artist at an auction. Once again, the increasing interest in Greek art works on an international level has been demonstrated. The total turnover of the auction reached an overwhelming €11,866,665. Kathimerini daily: Iakovides work goes under the hammer for record price at Sotheby’s sale in London;    Continue reading