Greek language learning

How to use the verb μου αρέσει in Greek: a practical guide with 23 examples

When your friend Katerina calls to invite you over for one of those bubbly, heartwarming Greek get-togethers over lunch with her, she asks:

“Τι να φτιάξω; Τι σου αρέσει;” (What should I make? What do you like?)

You politely insist she doesn’t have to get into trouble, you just wanted to see her.

But, you know how Greeks are about food: Τhere’s no way she ‘ll let you starve, quite the opposite, really.

“Τι σου αρέσει” , λοιπόν; So, what do you like?

In your mind pops Katerina’s τυροπιτάκια, κρεατόπιτα, χωριάτικη σαλάτα, ντολμαδάκια, χαλβάς and all the lovely dishes she makes.

But foods and other nouns in Greek have, as you know, 3 grammar genders:

  • masculine

  • feminine

  • neuter

and 2 numbers:

  • singular and

  • plural.

… and confusion begins. The question now is:

How to use the verb “I like (something)” in Greek: μου αρέσει or μου αρέσουν?

Today’s guide will help you not only say what you like - or don’t like -  but also use this verb about things you like doing.

Let’s dive in:

the reason why it’s different

The difficulty of this seemingly simple verb is that it doesn’t start with a “regular” personal pronoun, e.g. εγώ as in any of the verbs you use, such as εγώ πηγαίνω, εγώ κοιμάμαι etc. , but with the pronoun’s genitive μου (in the case where you talk about yourself).

Then, the verb αρέσει is added, in 3rd person singular or in 3rd plural person αρέσουν:

μου + αρέσει / αρέσουν

Unlike other languages, English or French for example, the structure is similar to the Spanish “me gusta” or “me gustan”.

You don’t need to speak Spanish, obviously, but the little “trick” is that the structure of μου αρέσει / αρέσουν is closer to: “It pleases me / They please me” rather than to the English verb “I like”.

Which actually means this:

  • with 3rd person singular αρέσει, you talk about something in singular: μου αρέσει ο χυμός.

  • with 3rd person plural αρέσουν, you talk about something in plural: μου αρέσουν τα ζώα.

To talk about things you like, or like doing, the verb only changes in singular or plural, since it’s about the number of things, the nouns you like (or don’t like) or about an activity (more on this in a bit).

Simply put, you don’t need to change the ending of αρέσει as you do with other verbs - except from plural form αρέσουν.

If you’re a grammar jargon type, you’ve guessed that μου αρέσει is an impersonal verb, which is why you don’t need to conjugate it to talk about things you like.

The 2 questions you might have now:

#1 Okay, I get that the verb part depends on what follows (Yay! This is more than halfway through.) But what about the personal pronoun?

#2 Which form of the word that follows (noun) do I have to use? Nominative (ο, η, το), accusative (τον, την, το) or genitive (του, της, του) case?

Let’s look closely at the examples below.

  1. Μου αρέσει ο καφές. I like coffee.

  2. Μου αρέσουν τα ταξίδια στο εξωτερικό. I like trips abroad.

  3. Σου αρέσει η σοκολάτα. You (singular) like chocolate.

  4. Σου αρέσουν οι εκπλήξεις; Do you like surprises?

  5. Δεν της αρέσει το κρύο. She doesn’t like the cold.

  6. Της αρέσει απίστευτα αυτή η παραλία. She adores (unbelievably likes) this beach.

  7. Του αρέσει το τσάι. He likes tea.

  8. Του αρέσουν τα παραδοσιακά σπίτια. He likes traditional houses.

  9. Μας αρέσει το βιβλίο που διαβάζουμε. We like the book we read.

  10. Δεν μας αρέσουν οι καφετέριες με καπνό. We don’t like cafés with smoke (of cigarettes, where smoking is allowed).

  11. Σας αρέσουν τα κιμαδοπιτάκια; Do you like minced meat pies?

  12. Δεν σας αρέσει ο θόρυβος που είχε αυτό το σπίτι. You (plural) don’t like the noise this house had.

  13. Σας αρέσουν οι μεζέδες; Do you like mezes (plural)?

  14. Τους αρέσει πάρα πολύ ο χαλβάς που φτιάχνεις. They like a lot the halva you make.

  15. Δεν τους αρέσει η πολυκοσμία. They don’t like crowds.

  16. Δεν τους αρέσουν τα ηλεκτρονικά παιχνίδια. They don’t like computer/video games.

What do you notice?

Regardless of the noun - whether it’s one (ο θόρυβος) or many (τα κιμαδοπιτάκια), whether it’s in feminine (οι καφετέριες) or masculine (οι μεζέδες) - the personal pronoun depends on the person who likes or doesn’t like something.

And, you guessed it right: in all sentences, the nominative case has to be used with the articles ο, η, το and οι, οι, τα - depending of course on the grammatical gender.

To recap, the structure is:

μου + αρέσει / αρέσουν + nominative case

Now, off to the last part. How to say “I like this activity”?

Fortunately, this is much more straightforward: To form the sentence all you need is:

The personal pronoun of choice, e.g. μου and then:

μου αρέσει + να + verb in present tense*

Let’s see some examples:

  1. Μου αρέσει να τρέχω. I like to run.

  2. Σου αρέσει να λες ιστορίες; Do you like telling stories?

  3. Του αρέσει να διαβάζει μυθιστορήματα. He likes to read novels.

  4. Δεν της αρέσει να κοιμάται πολύ αργά. She doesn’t like sleeping very late.

  5. Μας αρέσει να μαγειρεύουμε με λίγο αλάτι. We like cooking with a little salt.

  6. Σας αρέσει να κολυμπάτε; Do you like swimming?

  7. Δεν τους αρέσει να δουλεύουν την Κυριακή. They don’t like working on Sunday.

*A grammar note: να + verb in present tense is a practical way to remember it. Grammatically, it’s the continuous subjunctive mood.

The first part μου αρέσει can be used in past tense (μου άρεσε) and future tense (θα μου αρέσει).

But the second part να + verb in present tense can’t be changed.

Next Step: Say it!

Now tell me, which Greek food you like? And which you don’t?
Or, as your friend would ask: Τι σου αρέσει;

Reply in the comments below!

Did you like this article?

Get more of my best learning tips plus learning offers only for Greek language enthusiasts (with a bit of a sunshine, too) here:

Happy Greek learning,

Danae

The 5 Best From The Blog For 2018

Writing on a blog means reaching out, sharing with a community the same love, the same μεράκι.

It’s not about keeping all that you know for yourself; on the contrary, it’s about sharing it freely with the people who know the same love, who get the passion for all the beautiful things a language and a culture represent.

So, for one more year, I feel grateful and happy for being able to share with you this blog.

Below, you’ll find the 5 most loved articles of 2018.

These are articles about expressions and everyday phrases, about finding smart ways to focus and improve your speaking, about common grammar errors you might be making as you speak, while the conversation keeps going.

This list couldn’t include some newer articles that didn’t have the chance to be read as much. You might also find you have a different preference.

But I think this “tradition” is a nice way to remember some of the more “technical” aspects of language (such as the ever confusing Simple and Future tenses, most particularly, the Future Tense) or to find new inspiration and smart ways to spruce up your speaking with the use of a very simple tool you already have with you.

Let’s add some suspense and start the other way round, with the number 5:

#5

A New Route To Speaking Better Greek: 5 Simple And Steady Steps

This article is not about more course books. Or more activities.

If you crave to communicate with locals and feel good about it - but you often stumble after every other word, then keep reading.

You wouldn’t find the “fast, fun and easy” magic recipe for that in this article.

When I wrote it, I was simply eager to share with you an extremely simple way to start speaking, get feedback (even when you learn on your own!) and learn all this new vocabulary to use in actual conversations.

Sounds like magic, but it’s much simpler than that - no wands involved! Read about it here.

#4

Do You Make These 10 Errors In Greek?

This blog post was written after I made the same error for the millionth time (in English). I guess I secretly wished someone had written something similar for me.

You don’t have to be a beginner in Greek; the examples will help you avoid these very common errors you probably make again and again.

In fact, more advanced students make these errors too, especially in long phrases with more complex vocabulary and meaning.

And because you know I love explanations as opposed to “recipes”, you’ll also find why they are said this way and why it matters. Click here to read it.

#3

How To Use The Verb Γίνομαι : 18 Tangible Examples To Apply Right Away

Hmm. The verb γίνομαι.

Yes, we use this verb a lot.

And yes it causes tons of trouble because it doesn’t translate the same in other languages (if it does translate the same in your language, though, let me know, this will be fascinating to know and discuss).

Why should you care to get it right?

Apart from the obvious vocabulary related reasons, it will help you understand what the other person means when they use this verb in a number of different occasions.

You will also add some handy expressions in your speaking that make you sound more natural and avoid awkward silences. Find the article here.

#2

54 Short But Mighty Everyday Words And Phrases

This blog post is a long list, divided in several “themes” to help you use some of the most common phrases Greeks say in various situations.

I had lots of fun writing it!

You’ll also read about how to learn and use these phrases (hint: memorizing the whole list is definitely not included).

#1

How To Use The Future Tenses In Greek

And here we are to number 1.

This was the first post of 2018 and I do like it a lot.

Why? Because it felt good to untangle this thread of a grammar tense that appears to be causing so much trouble to learners.

Go ahead and learn or revise here the subtle or not so subtle differences between Simple and Future Continuous and then use them right away to say out loud your resolutions (or plans and projects) for the new year. Better, share them with me or in our small and friendly Facebook community!

A last note before the end of the year:

I’d like to thank you for coming along to this Greek language journey during the past year (and before that, if you happen to be reading the blog for quite a while).

I always appreciate your support and I thank you for sharing the love for the Greek language.

I wish you Καλές Γιορτές or a Happy Break and a wonderful New Year ahead.

~ Danae


Recommended for you:

How to spark up meaningful conversations with 17 easy to adapt questions

Imagine you meet your friend Marina for a coffee in downtown Athens.

You hug and cheerfully comment about how long it has been since you last met.

You sit down and order coffee at a small, busy coffee shop.

She asks you about your news and how is your family doing. You tell her a bit about your trip and your parents, your partner…

Marina eagerly goes ahead and asks you about the problem you had at work, the new hobby you had mentioned on Facebook, the book you had recommended … She can’t wait to catch up with you.

So far everything looks good, doesn’t it? But let’s zoom in a bit more to this dialogue.

Both Marina and you are interested in one another’s lives, you want to hear news, give your opinion about significant matters, talk about hobbies, suggest new books or movies.

However, if you look closer you’ll find that she’s the one asking questions and you’re the one giving answers.

Recall your last conversation in Greek. Is this what happened?

While Marina knows you and likes you, the communication between you and her seems imbalanced. You might be:

  • feeling interrogated, even with Marina’s best intentions

  • struggling to keep up with the pace of a native speaker

  • switching to English often in order to communicate better


Speaking is not necessarily communicating

You’ve probably heard and experienced that speaking in the language you learn is the hardest of all skills.

But is it speaking, or rather communicating that is hard?

Because when you speak, you have the task of forming a sentence.

But when you communicate, you have the tasks of:

  • listening

  • understanding

  • nodding, using body language

  • giving your opinion or comment

  • asking back

And it’s this last one action that determines whether the conversation keeps on going or not.

Imagine that “asking back” is like a hook: It gives both people the opportunity to connect their thoughts and eventually be connected with each other.

If your part in talking lacks the hook, then your Greek friend has nowhere to hang their thoughts.

In Greek, we use the very fitting word “συνομιλητής, συνομιλήτρια”, to describe the people who interact in a conversation (in this case, your Greek friend).

According to the Dictionary , συνομιλητής means the person who co-talks with another person (coming from συν-ομιλώ).

In English the word translates as interlocutor (although I’m not sure how common this word is to express anyone who takes part in any kind of conversing: from short, casual chats to deep, long conversations.)

In Practice

So, how are you going to bring a conversation back to life? How will you show you are curious and eager to find out more about your friend’s life and to show them you’re genuinely interested in them?

By simply asking them.

This is something we automatically do in our own language - and this is one of the reasons you or your friend switch to English/ the language you are both comfortable speaking - but we tend to avoid it in the language we learn.

This might happen for many reasons:

  • we freeze, expecting the native speaker to hold the conversation for both of us

  • we try to say as many things as we can, taking advantage of the fact that we can eventually speak the language with someone after months of lessons, therefore we get carried away

  • we have difficulty in forming questions, because they require a different structure in the sentence

  • we become so self-conscious, that we strive for perfection, which means putting more effort and time to form a proper reply, then we’re too exhausted to attempt a question

  • we can’t keep up with the pace of the conversation and eventually stick to replying only.

To save time and probably some headache as to how to form questions that will enliven your conversations with your Greek friends or relatives, here’s a list of the most common ones:

Questions about their opinion or advice:

  1. Πώς σου φαίνεται/φάνηκε ο/η/το …; How does it seem/looks like to you?

  2. Ποια είναι η γνώμη σου για ..; What’s your opinion about …?

  3. Τι θα με συμβούλευες να …; What would you advise me to …?

  4. Πού προτείνεις να πάμε για …; Where do you suggest we go to …?

  5. Εσύ, τι θα έκανες στη θέση μου; And you, what would you do if you were me …?

  6. Τι νομίζεις /τι λες /τι πιστεύεις για …; What do you think/say/believe about …?

    Questions about life events, current news:

  7. Κι εσύ τι …; And you what …(insert the same verb they just used to ask about you)?

  8. Πώς πήγε ο/η/το …; How did it go?

  9. Και τι τους είπες; Και τι έκανες; And what did you tell them? What did you do?

  10. Και μετά τι έγινε; And then, what happened?

  11. Μου έλεγες για …. Τι γίνεται τώρα; Πώς πάνε τα πράγματα; You were telling me about … What’s going on now? How do things go?

    Questions about personal stories, habits and hobbies:

  12. Πού γνωριστήκατε με τον/την …; Where did you meet …?

  13. Τι συνηθίζετε να κάνετε σ’αυτή τη γιορτή/ημέρα/περίσταση; What do you usually do on this celebration/(special) day/occasion?

  14. Εσένα, ποιος συγγραφέας / ηθοποιός κτλ σου αρέσει; And how about you, which writer/actor do you like?

  15. Εσένα ποιο βιβλίο / ποια ταινία σου άρεσε; And how about you, which book/movie did you like?

  16. Τι κάνει ο / η / το …; How is …?

    A question to offer help with something:

  17. Έχεις πολλή δουλειά; Χρειάζεσαι βοήθεια; Are you busy? Do you need any help?

Don’t skip the study part!

I love lists but only if they bring a meaning to your learning. Stacking one sentence after the next will not help you; using them meaningfully, it will.

Find here some bonus ideas about how to eventually add them to your conversations:

  • When you record yourself speaking, always remember to add a few questions in between. Need a little help to do that? Sign up to my Free Course to complete a speaking project with bite-sized tasks & recordings. At the end, you’ll receive my free feedback (and yes, my answer to your questions!)!

  • When you chat on social media or via any private chat with your friends: social media is less direct than actual conversation, but more direct than emails or cards for example, you can take advantage of the time you need to form sentences but also enjoy a chat at a live or almost live time. In fact, this is what we do in our small, chatty Facebook group which you can find here. Join us!

  • And if you’re ready to speak some more, book your spot to Greek Recorder: This is a short but mighty speaking & feedback service to help you talk about a topic you’re interested in. You use supporting vocabulary, your recordings and my feedback. Choose between 1-Week option or 3-Weeks option (with the option to renew). Check it out here.

Practice, practice, practice. To make meaningful discussions and connect with the other person (your “συνομιλητή”/ “συνομιλήτρια”), questions need to be part of your speaking.

Similarly to learning vocabulary and everyday phrases, you need to learn how to make questions in order to organically add them in any conversation.

Try it out - and let me know how it goes!


Recommended for you:

How To Use The Future Tenses In Greek

Do you ever get confused with the use of Future tenses in Greek?

For example, why & when do we say:

  • “Θα πιω νερό” instead of “Θα πίνω νερό”?

  • “Η Άννα θα φύγει αύριο” instead of “Η Άννα θα φεύγει αύριο”?

  • “Θα διαβάσουμε πολλά βιβλία” instead of “Θα διαβάζουμε πολλά βιβλία”?

Today I’m going to show you how to use and distinguish these two Future tenses.

By the end of this blog post you’ll be able to use them correctly aaand ... come up with your own resolutions for the New Year. Exciting?!

That's right, you'll use what you've learned (or revised) right away.

Happy New Year, by the way! To learn how to say this in Greek, click here.

So. You might be wondering.

What’s the difference between the 2 Future tenses?! (Also, are there more??)

First of all, there are 3 Future tenses: Simple, Continuous and Future Perfect.

Here, we’re looking at the two first, the Simple and the Continuous.

#1 The Simple Future

In my favourite Grammar for Greek learners, Greek: An Essential Grammar of the Modern Language, this is also called Perfective Future. It’s formed by θα + the perfective stem or the “aorist theme/stem” as we also use to call it. 

This is practically the reason why in most cases you first learn the Simple Past (Αόριστος: Aorist) and then the Simple Future; e.g. φεύγω → έφυγα → θα φύγω; By knowing the aorist stem -φυγ- it makes the Simple Future sound a bit ...simpler I guess?

The job of this tense is to describe future actions done at a specific time, without indicating the actual duration of the action.

Let’s see a few examples.

α. πίνω: to drink→ θα πιω

Imagine you’re reading the menu at a café. Your friend asks you:

"Τι θα πιεις; : What are you going to drink?"

Even if there is no verbal indication of time (tomorrow, at 10 am etc), the question is about the next moment. So you go ahead and reply:

"Θα πιω έναν καφέ. I’ll drink a coffee."

Let’s see another one.

β.. πάω/πηγαίνω: to go → θα πάω

Your cousin asks you about your work schedule:

"Πότε θα πας στη δουλειά; When are you going to work?"

"Θα πάω στις 8το πρωί. I’ll go at 8am."

Here, the question is about a future action done at a specific time. This is why your reply has the time + simple future here.

And let’s see a last example.

γ. μαγειρεύω: to cook → θα μαγειρέψω

"Τι θα μαγειρέψουμε αύριο για τους φίλους μας; What are we going to cook tomorrow for our friends?"

Recap:

All the examples above use Simple Future to talk about future actions, without getting into details about how long these last. They might or might not include an indication of time, such as "αύριο: tomorrow", "το μεσημέρι: at noon", "τον επόμενο μήνα: next month", "τη Δευτέρα: on Monday" etc.

#2 The Future Continuous

This is also called the Imperfective Future.

Its job is to describe future actions along with indicating their duration. These actions might be repetitive, for example describing a habit, or continuous.

Good news: This Future is formed only with θα + the verb in present tense.

Let’s see some examples.

α. κοιμάμαι→ θα κοιμάμαι

"Το καλοκαίρι θα κοιμάμαι πολύ αργά. In the summer, I will be sleeping very late."

Well, if you ever spent the summer in Greece you now how true this is, right?

Because the repetition here is about sleeping late every night or most nights, this is why we use the Future Continuous.

β. βγαίνω - θα βγαίνω

"Θα βγαίνω κάθε μέρα για περπάτημα. I’ll be going out for a walk every day."

Again, here we’re talking about going out for a walk every day. By using the phrase “every day”, we indicate the repetition. (Unless it’s -25C like it is right now in Toronto. No way I’m doing this every day!)

γ. γράφω - θα γράφω

"Η Μυρτώ θα γράφει όλο το απόγευμα. Myrto will be writing all afternoon."

In this case we talk about Myrto writing all afternoon. Since it’s something she’ll be doing the whole afternoon, Future Continuous is naturally the tense to use.

Recap:

Future Continuous is used to talk about habits and continuous acts in the future. When we indicate the time and duration, it's usually with phrases such as "όλη μέρα: all day", "όλο το απόγευμα: all afternoon", "κάθε μέρα: every day" etc.

So how does it sound so far? Are you ready to make your own New Year’s resolutions?

Now, for resolutions we need both future tenses, depending on what we want to do. Is it something we promise doing every day, making it a habit? Or something we’ll hopefully complete this year?

Here some ideas to get you started:

Simple Future

  • Θα μάθω ελληνικά. I’ll learn Greek.

  • Θα πάω ταξίδι στην Ισλανδία. I’ll go for a trip to Iceland.

  • Θα γραφτώ στη χορωδία. I’ll sign myself up for the choir.

  • Θα καθαρίσω την αποθήκη (επιτέλους!). I’ll clean the storage room (at last!).

  • Θα ξεπεράσω τους φόβους μου. I’ll overcome my fears.

Future Continuous

  • Θα περνάω περισσότερο χρόνο με την οικογένειά μου. I’ll be spending more time with my family.

  • Θα κοιμάμαι νωρίς. I’ll be sleeping early.

  • Θα πηγαίνω κάθε Σάββατο στο γυμναστήριο. I’ll be going every Saturday to the gym.

  • Θα φροντίζω τον κήπο μου. I’ll be taking care of my garden.

  • Θα διαβάζω περισσότερο. I’ll be reading more.

What are your resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments!

This article contains an affiliate link, which means you'll be supporting Alpha Beta Greek at no extra cost to yourself if you buy through the link. I only recommend books and resources of high quality that I trust and love to use myself. 


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The Ultimate Guide to Greek Christmas Holidays

What do you want to know about the Greek Christmas season in Greece?

Christmas in Greece can surprise you. The Greek Christmas table might overwhelm you. And Greeks will wholeheartedly welcome you at their Christmas feast.

In this guide you’ll find the most significant, traditional and fun things to say, write, do, celebrate and share with your Greek friends and family.

From writing or saying your wishes in Greek to cutting Vasilópita like a pro;

From singing the Greek carols (κάλαντα) to knowing when to leave cookies and milk for Santa... or should I say Áyio Vasíli? (hint: it’s not on the 25th!);

...This is your ultimate guide if you ‘re spending Christmas in Greece or if you’re simply curious to find out more about this special Greek holiday.

#1 The Christmas holidays

“Τι θα κάνετε τα Χριστούγεννα;”: What are you doing for Christmas?

When a Greek asks about Christmas, they don't necessarily mean the Christmas day.

Rather, it's the holiday season starting from the Christmas Eve (December 24th) to the Epiphany Eve (January 5th).

This is called the 12 days of Christmas and includes three major celebrations: Christmas (τα Χριστούγεννα),  the New Year (η Πρωτοχρονιά) and the Epiphany (τα Θεοφάνεια/τα Φώτα).

It’s the season to meet friends and family and eat lots of delicious Greek food. Music, theatre, indoor and outdoor events are frequent; Greeks love spending time outside.

By the way, did you know there are over 20 different carols?! 

While celebrations are more or less the same, every region (and in many cases even different places in the region) can have different customs such as different carols or special dishes.

Greece is a tiny country with tons of variety; this is why you love it, right?

Bonus info: Name days.

If you have a Greek in your life named Christina or Fotini for women, Vasilis or Christos for men... :

On Christmas day it’s the name day of all Greeks named Χρήστος (Christos for men) and Χριστίνα (Christina for women).

The New Year’s day is the celebration of Άγιος Βασίλειος or commonly, Άι-Βασίλης (Saint Basil). It’s the name day of everyone called Βασίλης (Vasilis for men) and Βασιλική (Vasiliki for women).

Άγιος Βασίλης is also the Saint who brings the presents to children; so January 1st is a day much anticipated.

Lastly, the Epiphany is the name day of Greeks named Φώτης (Fotis for men) and Φωτεινή (Fotini for women).

So go ahead and wish “Χρόνια Πολλά” to the Greeks in your life who happen to have these names! (see below more about this wish).

#2 Wishes

Surprise: You won't really hear “Merry Christmas” on Christmas day.

In case you're wondering, this is the card my parents sent this year. Love it!

In case you're wondering, this is the card my parents sent this year. Love it!

You see, Merry Christmas in Greek is “Καλά Χριστούγεννα” but we say this to each other until the Christmas day.

On Christmas day, we say “Χρόνια Πολλά” which literally means “Years many” (Years many to live and prosper is probably the message here).

We tend to use the “all-purpose” wish “Χρόνια Πολλά”, in birthdays, on name days and religious celebrations.

Why? Well, because when we wish using the adjective “good”: καλός, καλή, καλό (with the proper ending each time), it is usually for things or events that haven’t happened yet. Once they happen, they belong to the past.

An example is “καλό κούρεμα” (happy haircut - yes, there's a wish for that) Once you have your hair cut, there’s no need to say “καλό κούρεμα” anymore, right?

Καλά Χριστούγεννα actually means “Have a good Christmas day”. Once the day is here (and Christ is already born), “Χρόνια Πολλά” takes its place.

The same with the wish “Καλή Πρωτοχρονιά”: Have a Happy New Year’s day. Once the day is here, the year has started so we switch to “Καλή Χρονιά”: Happy New Year instead.

Of course, when we meet people for the first time and it’s still January, or when we simply want to wish Happy New Year, we can keep the wish “Καλή Χρονιά”.

For the Epiphany, simply say one more time “Χρόνια Πολλά” on January 6th.

Bonus info: Wish to your Greek friend on the phone.

How about calling your Greek friends and family on the phone to wish them in Greek?

A call is very much appreciated by Greeks - on name days and celebrations, the phone is ringing non stop.

# 3 Greek Christmas food

Isn't this everyone’s favourite part?

From savoury to sweet, traditional and local to non-traditional, Greek Christmas food is something that brings beautiful, warm memories. It’s not just about the food, but about the gatherings and the sharing.

But what’s so special about Greek Christmas food, compared to other days or celebrations?

On Christmas day pork, greens, salads, roast potatoes and the large variety of Greek pies is what Greeks have traditionally.

The special bread we make and set on the table is named “Χριστόψωμο”: Christ’s bread and it’s a bread made with honey, spices and nuts, decorated with shapes made out of dough.

The turkey dish has been added to the Greek festive table the last few decades. It can be the traditional dish for many families nowadays.

The family gets together on December 25th and the Christmas lunch starts the same time as lunch does in Greece; around 2 pm or even later.

On the New Year’s eve everyone - and I mean everyone, adults and kids alike - stays up until at least midnight.

This is the moment to cut the “βασιλόπιτα”: Saint Basil’s pie. In this special pie (which can be a cheese pie or even a vanilla cake) we hide a coin.

Whoever finds it in their piece has good luck for the whole year. Or so we like to hope!

As you can see, this is the "pie" I made for 2016. far from professional; but homemade and yummy.

As you can see, this is the "pie" I made for 2016. far from professional; but homemade and yummy.

Bonus info: Cut the pie.

Surprise the Greek in your life and cut βασιλόπιτα like a pro; Don’t laugh, I know you can do it.

Here’s how: First, make the symbol of the cross 3 times over the pie with the knife. 

Over is important. Don't spoil the fun by revealing the coin.

Then, start cutting the first piece and say “για τον Χριστό”: “for Jesus Christ”, continue with the next one “για την Παναγία”: “for Mother Mary” , the next one “για τον Άι-Βασίλη”: “for Saint Basil”, then “για το σπίτι”: “for the house” (which means the house you’re at the moment) and then - and only then! - start saying the names of the family and friends who are with you starting from the oldest to the youngest.

Members of the family who are not present, they always have a piece dedicated to them as well.

(Do you start wondering if you'll actually get a piece yourself? You will, you will. Just cut the first pieces smaller. Shhh. I didn't say that.)

Here’s a humorous video about this custom from a past Greek TV series.

Time for ...more dessert!

The most popular Greek Christmas treats are “κουραμπιέδες”: sugar cookies, “μελομακάρονα”: honey biscuits and “δίπλες”: this one is fried dough in a folded shape thus the name, which means exactly that; folded.

Based on honey, nuts, olive oil or butter and spices, these treats are made of the very best ingredients Greece has to offer.

In Greece, you can find them during Christmas time only. Greeks make tons of them to offer to family and friends and bakeries sell them in abundance. As you can imagine, everyone ends up with large quantities of treats.

Bonus info: ...

(I guess the only “bonus” here is the pounds we gain?)

# 4 Carols

Κάλαντα”: the carols are traditionally sung by groups of children visiting house after house and shop after shop on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve, always in the morning. On Epiphany Eve you might listen to carols as well, but this is less common nowadays.

There are different carols for every region and even in the same region there can be different variations. Worry not, we do have a common to all version, which you can download (and sing!) here:

Since “Άγιος Βασίλης”: Saint Basil is celebrated on New Year’s day, these carols are dedicated to him.

Gradually however, the "man in the red suit" has taken the place of Saint Basil in kids’ stories and decorations; Rudolph, North Pole and elves have also been added to the stories about the Saint - who seems to be coming from two different places and traditions.

(I tried to explain this to my daughter when she was 5. We ended up saying that the Saint first visits Canada on Christmas day and by the time he gets to Greece it's January 1st. Parenthood is not easy.)

Bonus info: Money for carols?

A bit like the “trick or treat” in the US and Canada, children in Greece can’t wait to sing the Christmas carols.

They don’t get treats, they get money (a few coins but for a child it's of course a fortune) so they are eager to wake up early and sing until the afternoon.

Did I sing κάλαντα as a kid? Of course I did. With a musical triangle of course - a must!

PHOTO CREDIT: SOFIA POLYKRETI |  earthlang.net  | Christmas tree at Syntagma square in Athens

PHOTO CREDIT: SOFIA POLYKRETI | earthlang.net | Christmas tree at Syntagma square in Athens

# 5 How to celebrate

If you’re spending the holidays in Greece this year, here are a couple of things that might help you get oriented easier:

Decorate a tree a few days before Christmas and keep it until the Epiphany. Before the tree decoration which started around the 19th century in Athens, Greeks didn't decorate; a miniature boat was often displayed at homes or a simple candle was lit.

The boat decoration has been revived the last years and many squares have large light decorations in the shape of a boat. 

Stories about the mischievous spirits who manage to surface from underground, the "καλλικάντζαροι": (kallikantzari) goblins, are told by the fire; this time of the year I remember my grandfather, who was an excellent storyteller. His stories would send a chill down our spines for days.

Breaking a pomegranate open on New Year's day in front of the main door is a tradition in some areas to this day; pomegranate is considered to bring luck and prosperity.

And lastly, on Epiphany day, the blessing of the water takes place; the priest throws the Cross in the sea, lake or river and swimmers dive to catch it. 

Aside tradition, so many events happen in cities and towns, day and night. And they all take place in public squares and open spaces. 

Be prepared to spend lots of time outside and why not, enjoy Greeks’ favourite pastime; going out for a coffee. Not the quick, one shot kind. Slow your pace and enjoy a good conversation or your book or simply the view.

If you’re invited to a Greek’s home, it is common to buy dessert or flowers or wine. Don’t be surprised if the host offers what you bought or made for them to you and everyone else; food and drinks are honoured when shared.

With all my heart, I wish you:

Καλά Χριστούγεννα και Καλή Πρωτοχρονιά!

What’s your favourite Greek Christmas tradition? I'll be happy to read it in the comments.


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