Thursday, December 28, 2006


After the colorful splendor of India, we responded to the siren song of the Mediterranean, and immersed ourselves in the beauty of the Greece. There was so much more to this idyllic setting than the ancient mythologies we were already familiar with, thanks in part to the lovely copy of D'Aulaire's Greek Mythology the children's Aunt had given to them some years before. I read as much about the nation as I could, discovering hidden places with alluring names like the Dragon Lakes in the Epirus region in the mountains of northwestern Greece. I had always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern US. Now I yearned to hike through alpine meadows, cross 300 year old stone bridges, and find a gem of lake where I could sit and believe that dragons might rise from a hidden lair.

Even the Greek Christmas traditions surprised me. I think I expected them to be very similar to other European customs with which I was familiar. Instead, I encountered the unfamiliar, such as the Kallikantzaroi. I knew of elves and leprechauns from Irish lore, but had never heard of their mischievous Greek counterparts. These imps apparently rise from within the earth, only during the 12 days between Christmas and the Epiphany, to stir up trouble. They put out fires and sour milk, and braid horses tails. A sprinkling of basil-scented holy water will keep these naughty creatures away. Offerings are also made to naiads, the spirits of springs and fountains, on St. Basil's Day, the traditional day for exchanging gifts. On the Epiphany, priests dip crucifixes into the sea and give them the Blessing of the Waters. This is not a familiar celebration of the season, after all.

Our Greek doll, Laria (which means "the stars are mine"), is proudly holding her book of traditional carols or kalanda, so that she may sing along with other neighborhood children, and be rewarded with figs, almonds and coins for her songs.

Despite all of these unexpected discoveries about Greece, it was no surprise to me that the food was a delight. For our Christmas dinner, we enjoyed - among other things - spanikopita (spinach pie) and Greek salad, potatoes with Greek seasonings, and Honey Cake, an alternative to baklava. This rich, sweet cake, drenched in golden honey, was a favorite in our household though each of us could eat only a little bit at a time.
According to, there is a Greek saying that "He who is not satisfied with a little is not satisfied with a lot." We were satisfied with our study of Greece, though we would have enjoyed much more. It was time, however, to move on to Russia with the new year.

photos of Aisling, December 2006


Vicky said...

I really like the Greek saying. It says so much. I'm interested in the seasonings you put on the potatoes. Do you remember what they were or is there a bottle of spice (that I obviously haven't seen before) that says Greek Seasonings? Did you name the doll? I will have to remember the name and what it means. I ollect "star" items and sayings. I'm really enjoying your blog!

Aisling said...

Vicky, There wasn't a bottle of "Greek Seasonings." I will pull out the recipe for Greek Style Potatoes and post it here on my blog tomorrow. I just ran across it when I was refreshing my memory on our study of Greece.

Yes, I named all of the dolls - with some help from my daughters. I really liked the meaning of this one and made a "note to myself" so I would remember. It has been a lot of work (though happy work!) to sew costumes for the dolls and make their tiny accessories, but the naming is Pure Fun! :)

Thank you for letting me know you are enjoying my blog!