Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 19: Greek Christmas Boat

It’s Day 19 of our Advent Calendar and it’s time to head over to Greece to find an alternative for the Christmas tree. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!

 

GREEK CHRISTMAS BOAT

If you are spending Christmas in Greece, and you take a walk in a harbour, you may see sailboats decorated with lights. Greece is a country of seafarers so it is hardly surprising that this  Christmas tradition revolves around boats. Especially on the Greek islands, such as Crete, this age old tradition is still going strong, and many people choose to even put up a decorated miniature boat in their home instead of a Christmas tree.

There are many variations to how the tradition supposedly came to be. Allegedly, it was customary for the wives of the homecoming sailors to decorate boats and place them by the fire to welcome their husbands home, and to symbolise the safe return of the ships.

Other sources link the tradition to the patron saint of sailors, Saint Nicholas, and indeed, the boats are traditionally decorated on December 6th, the feast of Saint Nicholas. Sometimes, the boats are also filled with gold coins – or these days, with chocolate coins – which are also a symbol of Saint Nicholas.

The tradition somewhat dwindled in popularity in the 19th century when the German kings of Greece started decorating Christmas trees instead, but in the islands the Christmas boats maintained their place in people’s homes. These days the boats are making a comeback on the mainland as well, and many cities display a large decorated vessel for all to admire.

Would you switch your Christmas tree for a more nautical centrepiece?

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Crete Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Things To Do On Crete

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed on Crete! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of the island’s most important sights.

Crete Marco Polo Guide

1. KNOSSOS
The reconstructed palace of Knossos, near the island’s capital of Iraklio, gives visitors an idea of the splendour of the more than 3,500-year-old Minoan culture.

2. ARCHAIOLOGIKO MOUSEIO, IRAKLIO
The museum’s rich collection of art, ritual objects and everyday utensils, unearthed by archaeologists in Crete, are all beautifully exhibited and clearly explained.

3. CHANIA
Over 500 years of Venetian rule left their mark on Crete, and nowhere is this more evident than in Chania, Crete’s second largest city.

4. RETHIMNON
A particularly large number of Ottoman-era minarets soar above the city; and its harbour is the most picturesque in Crete.

5. FARANGI SAMARIAS
A hike through the Samaria Gorge, in the White Mountains, is an exciting adventure that combines physical challenge with great nature, and it finishes off with a ferry trip.

6. GORTIS
Many of the ruins of the former Roman capital are picturesquely scattered through an ancient olive grove.

7. PHAISTOS (FESTOS)
The Minoan palace of Phaistos lies in a scenic location on a hill overlooking a fertile plain between Mount Ida and the Asterousia Mountains.

8. GOURNIA
The excavation of this small Minoan country town gives one a vivid impression of how the
island’s ordinary people lived more than 3,500 years ago.

9. MONI ARKADIOU
In a solitary location on a high plateau, this Renaissance monastery is a national shrine and symbol of Crete’s struggle for independence – hundreds of Cretans sacrificed their life here during a rebellion against Turkish rule.

10. AGIOS NIKOLAOS
The small, picturesque town in the east boasts a freshwater lake as a fishing port, an excellent museum and a former leper colony as an excursion destination.

 

Buy the Crete Marco Polo Guide.

Crete Marco Polo Guide

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Marco Polo Pocket Guides around the world!

Marco Polo Guides have been all around the world… from the sublime to the ridiculous (we’re not saying which are which!) Here’s a selection of our top “I AM MARCO POLO” photos:

BERLIN

Migrant Expats - Marco Polo Berlin Pocket Guide

Photo credit: The Migrant Expats

Marco Polo Berlin Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Alison Floutier

Berlin Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Chiara Colella

MONTENEGRO

Marco Polo Guide Montenegro

Photo credit: Steph McCall

DUBLIN

Dublin Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Carina Watson

ROME

Marco Polo Rome Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Jane W.

LAS VEGAS

Marco Polo Las Vegas Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Katie Bennett

Marco Polo Las Vegas Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Emma Whitlock

Las Vegas Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Emma Whitlock

LAKE GARDA

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Vicky Merriman

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Ian MacDonald

MALTA

Malta Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

VENICE

Marco Polo Pocket Guide Venice

Photo credit: Vicky Merriman

Marco Polo Pocket Guide Venice

Photo credit: Hannah Shaw

Venice Marco Polo Guide

“I’m gonna have to go into the map.” Photo credit: Hannah Shaw recreating the London map scene by Joey in Friends.

BARCELONA

Barcelona Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Dannii Perrin

MALLORCA

Mallorca Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Bryan Bennion

CRETE

Crete Marco Polo Pocket Guide

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

Got a Marco Polo picture of your own?

To submit your photo: either email it to us hayley@marcopolouk.com or send it via our social media channels:  Tweet us @marcopologuides upload it to our Facebook wall or send it via Instagram. Please use the hashtag #marcopologuides

(By submitting your photo you are giving us permission to use your image on our website and social media sites.)

So the only question left is… Where to next?

Marco Polo Pocket Guides

Photo credit: Unamorenaintransit.com