Karavaki: The Greek Christmas boat

One thing that’s definitely sure to get us in a Christmassy mood is putting up the Christmas tree. We cover the tree with baubles and unpack the terrible handmade decorations we made when we were primary school age. Let’s be honest, the final product can look a little tacky, but equally lovely at the same time. In Greece, they’ve recently bought back an old tradition of decorating a boat instead of a tree, and it looks awesome.

The tradition symbolises sailing towards a new life, following the birth of Jesus Christ. Greece has for many centuries been a maritime nation, especially the small islands. Fishermen would leave their families for days at a time, so decorating the boats also allowed the fishermen to show their gratitude for making it through another year with their families. It also gave locals the opportunity to show their thanks for the marines and sailors who risked their lives to help their country strive.


Credit: Petyo Ivanov

Back when the tradition first started, children used to make boats out of objects from around their homes. The children would then go carolling and provide their neighbours with small sweets and treats from their handmade boats. Carolling during this time was a big part of Christmastime in Greece, and locals would sing along with lots of string instruments, like a carolling band!

The tradition of decorating a tree was brought to Greece in 1833 by the Bavarian royal King Otto, but decorating a boat goes much further back in Greek history. Covering a boat in lights did die out a little when the tree was brought over, but Greek villagers are embracing their heritage and trying hard to bring the lit boat back. Can you really blame them? It is rather eye-catching.

Here, towns and villages put up Christmas trees to mark the festive season. But in Greece, they’ve started to display large lit-up boats instead. Handy if you don’t have an actual boat lying around.

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About Helen Winslade

Helen Winslade

My fondest holiday memories so far are from when I travelled to Rome. Once I made it to the hotel, I chucked my bags on the bed and just went out for a walk, and my first stop was a restaurant (naturally, I love food). The food in Italy is amazing. Even if you just have a pizza, it tastes so much better out there. I won’t even go into how much I loved the ice cream because words cannot do it justice.

We went on a lot of tours while we were out there, but the one that stands out has to be Vatican City. It was one of those tours where you didn’t really listen to much of what your tour guide said, because you were too busy looking at everything and taking all the amazing things in. I took pictures of everything, even down to the floor tiles just because I didn’t want to forget anything.

Helen used to work in our marketing team

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