In Greece, “Christmas” isn’t just a single-day celebration but a holiday period that starts on Christmas Eve and ends with Epiphany (Theofania) on January 6.
This dodekaimero, or twelve days, as its known among Poros locals may not be celebrated with as much spectacle as Easter, but it’s still a favorite time of year—and one with its own traditions. Indeed, many local customs have evolved to embrace newer ones and cultural imports.
On Poros, Christmas is foremost a time for family, but also a time for sharing and reconnecting. The social calendar groans under the weight of activities, from Christmas pageants for children and holiday bazaars organized by local civic associations to formal dances. Poros Town is full of glitter—literally, thanks to the lighting and other decorations put up by the municipality and the tree set up outside town hall. Families decorate their homes and fishermen their boats. Scents of burning wood fill the air as fireplaces are lit and the aromas of cinnamon and other spices waft from kitchen windows.
On the eve of each of the three holidays—Christmas, New Year’s, and Epiphany—the streets are filled with sounds of caroling children who make the rounds of houses and cafes from early morning through lunchtime. Each holiday has its own carol, sung a capella to the sole accompaniment of a triangle. Indulging in sweets is another tradition that’s fiercely guarded. Plates piled high with kourambiedes (sugar-dusted almond cookies), melomakarona (honey-drenched cookies), skaltsounia (nut-filled cookies), and diples (fried dough strips drizzled with honey and crushed walnuts) are everywhere, from kitchen counters and sideboards to cafes and shops. Many households bake a special bread, Christopsomo, although most younger families these days buy it.
While many locals will make forays into Athens for shopping and shows, their number is offset by native Poriotes who return to the island for the holidays. This adds to the festive air, which is echoed in cafes and bars, where a casual drink can turn into an impromptu party; the same goes for tavernas, many of which have live music.
On New Year’s Eve, everyone disappears to their homes for dinner. The streets are quiet but only until midnight. The moment they ring in the New Year, people rush from their homes to party at bars and clubs until dawn.