The Christmas Boat Decoration

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The Christmas Boat Decoration

The decoration of the Christmas tree is not a Greek custom. It is said that the first Christmas tree in Greece was introduced and decorated by the Bavarian king Otto in 1833. In Greece, according to tradition, people used to decorate boats during Christmas season. The boat (karavaki in Greek) symbolizes sailing towards the new life that follows the birth of Jesus Christ.  The boat also symbolizes the maritime identity of the country. Greece has been a maritime country for thousands of years and the connection of its people with the sea is very strong. Some decades ago, people working in the sea were even more. Sailors worked hard, away at sea for long periods of time while the women of the Greek islands waited for the return of their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. On spotting the ships returning to harbor, the women would joyfully rush home to celebrate, by decorating small wooden boats, as a welcome to the weary seafarers. The boats were arranged on the floor, or next to the fire, with their bows pointing inwards, symbolizing the homeward journey.

Children used to make their own boat, using wood and paper and then decorate them with colorful fabrics, cotton and twigs. On Christmas Eve, children are singing carols from house to house, having with them the handmade boats and filling them with the treats they receive.

Unfortunately, this custom of decorating a boat disappeared over the years and the Christmas tree replaced it. However, in the last decade, the decoration of the boat becomes very popular again as a Christmas decoration, on the islands as well as in other places throughout Greece.