This beautiful city which bursts with life, is an amazing amalgam of people, Greek and foreign. A mixture of well-preserved traditions with modern and foreign elements and this, is what I believe, makes New Year in Athens so special!
If you are in Athens during the last days of the year, then, you are in luck! You will have the opportunity to witness the festive “face” of the city, with open air concerts, bazaars and happenings taking place in almost all major squares and pedestrian streets of Athens.
The best way to get the festive vibe of the city, is to join Athens food tour prior to the Eve of the New Year. Mingle with the joyful crowds in the central Athenian market and let your guide take you on a journey to the Greek customs, showing you the best place to buy the ripest pomegranates and “kremmyda” (Drimia maritima: latin name Urginea Maritima). The pomegranates, we, the Greeks, smash in front of our doorstep right after the coming of the New Year. According to the tradition (which originates from Peloponnese), the more seeds fall off the pomegranate and the messier it gets, the more money will go into the house- owner’s pockets. If the seeds are red, fresh and juicy, then the year will be full of good fortune and happy moments.
The “kremmyda” is a custom that dates back in the 6th century B.C. According to tradition, even Pythagoras used to hang a Drimia maritima outside his door, as protection from illnesses. Through the years, people have come to believe, that hanging this plant in a home (even through an entire year, since the bulb-like plant doesn’t die, but creates new leaves for a long period of time) will give them luck, fertility and good health.
Allow yourself to be whisked away by your guide’s narratives, in past times, where the tradition of the “Vasilopita” (Greek new year sweet pie with a lucky coin) was born.
Your food tour, will conveniently finish near Monastiraki square, which lies right at the foot of the Acropolis.
I’d suggest, you don’t go back to the hotel, but just stroll along the lovely decorated Ermou street, all the way up to Syntagma square and back to the Plaka area from Mitropoleos street, so that, you can see the Mitropolis Cathedral. Enjoy a coffee or, – why not? After all you are on a holiday! – an ouzo at one of the lovely “kafeneio” (coffee places) near Monastiraki and in the afternoon, join the festive Athens Walking tours cooking lesson. At the end of the lesson, you’ll receive a special treat: The recipes for creating Melomakarona and Kourambiedes, our traditional Christmas sweets.
There is no problem, if you will not have time to prepare them before the beginning of the New Year, as long as you will have at least one sweet thing on your table to treat St. Basil, our very own version of Santa Claus, who does his visits in the dawn of the New Year!
In the morning of New Year’s eve, fill your pockets with coins or sweets and stop any kid you see holding a metallic triangle on the street! Ask them to sing the “Kalanda” (Greek New Year Carols) for you. They will gladly do so, as it is a custom that kids sing the Carols during this morning. and as a thank you, give them a coin or a sweet treat!
Join the Athens Walking Tours for a city walk and a visit to the Acropolis. Remember! The Acropolis is celebrating New Year as well and a special firework show will take place on it, right after the turn of the year. The site, as well as the museum, will be closed on the 1st and 2nd of January, so, if you’d like to visit it, make your arrangements with Athens Walking tours for the days before or after these dates. While up on the Acropolis hill, the perfect view will allow you to see the meeting point for the big New Year feast this night.
Join the Athenians in this great celebration and wish each other a happy New Year!