Friday, January 01, 2010

Festive Athens

Happy new year 2010!

Syntagma Square in central Athens at 12 AM on 1/1/2010

When things go according to plan, hubby and I spend Christmas in England and New Year's in Greece, getting the best of both worlds. Christmas is the bigger celebration in England and a relative non-event in Greece. The opposite is true of new year's eve. This is why we try to see in the new year amongst our Greek family and friends, something we decided against this year (I don't know what we were thinking).

Unsurprisingly, we had a very boring new year's eve and an even more boring new year's day - it was so bad that I've promised myself never to spend new year's eve in England again, even if it means I fly out on the 31st December and back on the 1st January!

In case you're wondering why Christmas isn't celebrated much in Greece, this is because in the Eastern Christian (Orthodox) tradition, Christmas isn't considered to be the biggest religious celebration of the year. This position is claimed by Easter, on the basis that it's the ressurection of Christ, not His birth, that made a difference to humankind.

Even Epiphany, which falls on January 6, is considered to be a more important religious feast than Christmas. So from a celebratory point of view, Christmas heralds the start of the holiday season which culminates in Epiphany and has New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in its centre.

Add to this the fact that the Greek Santa Claus brings kids' presents on New Year's Eve rather than Christmas day, and you can see why the 31st December becomes the biggest party day of the year, for children and adults alike.

Preparations are slow before Christmas (no Santa chocolates appearing in Greek supermarkets in September, thank God) but the atmosphere between Christmas and new year is amazing. Everyone's out shopping for new year presents, but not with the same consumerist fervour you see in England. When we lived in Greece we used to go out and do all our shopping in just one day - none of this "147 Shopping Days To Christmas" malarkey that seems to send everyone in the UK in a frenzy round about October time.

Anyway, I digress. The point is that this morning I was feeling rather sorry for myself for not having spent any part of the holiday season in Greece. Then I logged on to Facebook and found that a friend of a friend had posted a load of beautiful photos taken in Athens during December. So here they are: instead of am extra-long new year's day tirade, I've made a photo-post instead.

All photos have been taken by Antonis Toutouzis, who has kindly given me permission to post them on my blog. Many thanks, Antoni, and a happy new year to you!


Marg, the Sal. said...

Wow, that's some tasteful decorations! Maybe at some point we'll also manage to spend the holidays in Greece and see some of it.

Further on, I agree with everything you're writing. If you think that consumerism is big in England, you should see how it's going over here. It's bad. The funniest thing is when I hear people take pride in the fact that they're done with Xmas shopping some time mid-September. Kudos to them, I guess, but what is Xmas shopping w'out going out to decorated streets and shops and feel the season?

Btw, my tree will not go down before Jan. 30 - the last day that someone can "cut a vasilopita" ;)

Tinsie said...

Marg, I totally agree with you. The only Christmas shopping I enjoy is the one where you go out on 29 or 30 December, buy everything in one go and bring it home gift-wrapped. How I miss those days!

As for the tree, way to go! If I were you, I'd make a vasilopita to cut on the very last day too :-)

Betty C. said...

Those photos of Greece are magical -- I can feel the atmosphere!

Have a very Happy New Year!

palmtreefanatic said...

WOW! awesome photos!
Happy New Year to you!

Anonymous said...

kali xronia se olous me ygeia ,eytyxia,eirini........tha xrisimopoiiso auti tin anartisi sto blog mou !ipirxan tosa stin athina kai den ta eida?!

Mo said...

What fabulous lights. Very festive

Gattina said...

Interesting ! You know in Holland Christmas is not important either, they celebrate Santa Claus the 6th December. In Belgium we celebrate. I had a phantastic New Year Eve, I went with a friend in the Brussels Casino. If you have time, have a look on Writer's Cramps.

Tinsie said...

@ Betty: I know! It's almost like festivity is spilling out :-)

@ Olo: Εμ... γι' αυτό λέω να βγαίνετε και καμιά βόλτα. Τσκ τσκ τσκ.

@ Gattina: Of course! They celebrate Sinterklaas Day and kids dress up as Zwarte Piet. I'd forgotten about that tradition, thanks for reminding me!

Karen said...

"Christmas isn't considered to be the biggest religious celebration of the year. This position is claimed by Easter, on the basis that it's the resurrection of Christ, not His birth, that made a difference to humankind."

That's it! The final proof needed! I am, indeed, meant to be Greek.


Will "shop" your photos as soon as all these males go back to school/work I and have a bit of peace and quiet.

tapirgal said...

Your pictures were beautiful, and your commentary very educational :) Thanks for both!

Anonymous said...

wow ! very colourful images. I wish your a very happy and prosperous new year.

Tinsie said...

@ Karen: LOL! Maybe you are ;-)

@ Tapirgal: Glad you liked the post & thanks for commenting.

@ Exposemaximum: Same to you!

Anonymous said...

Bah humbug!!!! weren't you impressed by the London fireworks ;) OK, they don't 'quite' compare to your Greek photos!? To be honest, I agree and may be it IS a London thing but I'm never that excited about NYE and stopped going out years ago... I think you should defo try and escape next year and get the best of both!!!

Puss-in-Boots said...

Beautiful photos, Tinsie. What a shame you didn't go to sounds like so much fun.

Christmas is totally overdone nowadays and the origin is almost lost in comsumerism, more's the pity.

I hope 2010 brings your hopes and dreams to fruition.

Tinsie said...

Thank you and best wishes to you too, if only a bit late!