Karavaki: The Greek tradition of decorating boats for Christmas

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For many countries around the world, Christmas is usually linked with decorating Christmas trees. In Greece, however, the practice of decorating sailing boats with Christmas lights, known as a ‘Karavaki,’ is still a common tradition today.

It is not entirely clear how the tradition began, but the Karavaki is commonly seen on the islands of Greece and its coastal regions. 

It is presumed that the custom represents Greece’s relationship with the sea and its history with the country’s sailors and navy.

Karavaki set up outdoors. Photo credit: protothema.

In the past, it was common for men from the islands to be away at sea for months at a time, with their families eagerly awaiting them back home. The joy of finally seeing the boats of their loved ones return ashore would have the women celebrating in relief.

This is perhaps one theory as to how the symbol of the Karavaki came about. 

The Christmas boats are traditionally decorated on December 6, the feast day of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. The boats are displayed until January 6, which is the day of Epiphany, also known as Theophania. 

Today, most Greek families decorate their house with a  Christmas tree, but the Karavaki can still be found in many households and even public places around Greece.

Source: greekerthanthegreeks.

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