Christmas Boats – Karavaki, a Greek Tradition
#AthenStyle #FamousHostels #Christmas2016
Have you ever wondered why in Greece at Christmas, we decorate boats?
The Christmas Boat (Karavaki- Little ship) is part of a very old Greek tradition. It comes from the Islands where each year children go door to door singing ‘kalanda’ (Christmas Carols) usually accompanied by instruments such as triangles, guitars, accordians and harmonicas. The children on the islands carry small wooden boats, either illuminated to light the way or with enough space to store treats given to them by the residents they sing for. Some claim that this custom’s roots are linked with the December 6th Celebration of Agios Nikolas (Saint Nicholas) who is the Patron Saint of Sailors in Greece.
The tradition also dates back hundreds of years when many Greeks were working as seamen. During Christmas time, when many were returning home after a long time at sea, their wives would celebrate by decorating small wooden boats as a way of saying welcome home.
This tradition has gradually spread inland with people all over the country beginning to decorate model wood or paper boats with lights and ornaments at Christmas time. Traditionally the boats are placed near the door or fire with the bow pointing inwards, this symbolises the boats making their journey towards the mainland. Sometimes coins or gold objects are also placed in the boats to symbolise riches entering ones home.
Surprisingly the Christmas Boat tradition has only become popular in the mainland in and around the last 30 years and is comparativley new compared to the Christmas tree. The reason for this is that the Greeks are aware that the Christmas tree is not traditonally part of their culture and was actually imported by their first king, Otto of Bavaria. They wanted to begin their own tradition using the boat, and by the number of people that seem to have taken up this tradition it has been very sucessful.
Here at our hostel in Athens we have decorated two boats to display in our window. But instead of welcoming seafarers we welcome our guests to spend Christmas with us, who will hopefully find a home away from home during the festive season 🙂
After all, in Greece we’re known to be travellers! Merry Christmas from the crew here at Athenstyle! x