Night view of Thessaloniki
Night view of Thessaloniki

Christmas Around The World: Greece

So, the next country in our Christmas Around The World series is Greece. A festive season that lasts for 12 days – and includes Christmas, New Year and Epiphany – the food is just as fantastic as you might expect.

As with any holiday, comes tradition. One that’s important in many Greek households is the making of Christopsomo – or, Christ’s Bread. It’s made on Christmas Eve and decorated with a cross or an “x”, which is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, and then the bread is eaten on Christmas Day, usually by the slice and drizzled in honey. Ingredients include anise seeds and orange zest, so it’s easy to imagine the festive flavour it possesses. For Christmas Day itself, the meat of choice is more often pork although there is no particular recipe that people tend to gravitate towards. Turkey, however, is increasing in popularity at Greek tables on Christmas Day. Before the main meal, starters of stuffed cabbage leaves (yiaprakia) and an egg-lemon chicken soup known as avgolemono are often present.

Where other treats are concerned, you’ll know when Christmas is approaching in Greece as these delicious little cookies called melomakarona start appearing in bakeries! Using spices such as orange, cloves and cinnamon, they are typically dipped in syrup and then sprinkled with nuts. On the island of Crete, you might come across kalitsounia kritis cheese pastries, and, on the seven-island group of Eptanisa, it’s common to find a rich walnut spice cake known as karythopita, which is soaked in a lightly spiced syrup.

Image of homemade melomakarona from WikiCommons

Recipe for melomakarona, a festive soft cookie dipped in either honey or syrup (makes around 35 cookies, perfect for a party) 

Ingredients – for the cookies

  • 100g olive oil
  • 100g vegetable oil
  • ½
  • tsp orange zest
  • 1 ½ tsps cinnamon powder
  • 125ml orange juice
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp clove powder
  • 55g white sugar
  • 50g semolina
  • 500g plain flour

Ingredients – for the syrup 

  • 275g sugar
  • 75g honey
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • Juice from quarter of an orange
  • 1 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves
  • 310ml water 

For the topping

  • Honey
  • Coarsely crushed walnuts


  1. It’s advisable to make the syrup ahead of time (even the night before), so that it’s cool enough to coat the cookies once they’re cooked. To do this, put all of the syrup ingredients except for the honey into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once it starts simmering, take the pan off the heat and add in the honey. Whisk until it dissolves and then leave the syrup off the heat to cool down. It needs to be cold before you can coat the cookies, so leave ample time for this process.
  2. Make the dough: Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C and then put the ingredients for the cookies into a large bowl in the following order – sunflower oil, olive oil, orange juice, baking soda and cloves. Whisk in the baking soda and the rest of the spices along with the semolina, zest and sugar, and then add in the flour until a dough is formed.
  3. It should only take a few minutes to form the dough. Shape oval cookies in your hands and transfer to a baking tray lined with greaseproof baking paper. Gently press the back of a fork into each cookie to give them a textured appearance, and bake for around 30 minutes. Ensure you leave enough space between each cookie.
  4. Once you remove the cookies from the oven, dip them into the syrup so that they soak up the flavours. It’s recommended that you leave them for around 15 seconds in the syrup. Remove from the syrup and drain them on a wire rack.
  5. Once they’ve drained, drizzle them with a little honey and top with the crushed walnuts. Now, they’re ready to be enjoyed!

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Christmas Around The World: Greece was published on 13 December 2019