Celebration of Saint Nicholas
A significant figure in Christian history, Saint Nicholas and his miraculous work is celebrated annually on the 6th of December from the 3rd century AD up until now!
Saint Nicholas is widely considered to be the patron saint of sailors, given that a lot of his anecdotal stories and miracles are related to the sea and the rescuing of seafarers! Due to that, the 6th of December is a national holiday for the Greek Navy and Coastguard, as well as all common Greek ships, ports, and shipping companies, while all navy and cargo ships carry an icon of his on every trip. On top of that, Saint Nicholas is also the patron saint of the namesake town of Agios Nikolaos in Crete, as well as the towns of Alexandroupoli, Volos, Delphi, and Kozani, plus the islands of Syros and Kos.
In the seaside areas that have Saint Nicholas as their patron saint, glorious masses take place, followed by the procession of the icon of the saint. The ceremony is attended by many people, among them naval officers, sailors, and fishermen with their families.
Decorated boats are also a yearly salute to the life and work of Saint Nicholas! More specifically, small boats all around the country are covered in bright white and blue lights, whereas large boat-shaped arrays of Christmas lights are put together in the main squares of many towns around Greece, including several islands and the town of Igoumenitsa!
Additionally, this day signifies the official start of the Christmas preparation period, where people decorate their houses for the 25th of December!
Some towns around Greece celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with a more traditional approach by performing old customs! People prepare ceremonial bread and cook fish; most believers would cook carp fish (if possible) wrapped in dough and would put it on the dinner table alongside boiled corn, wheat, peppers, beans, and rice-stuffed vine leaves.
In previous decades, people used to place a small wooden boat facing towards the house center near the fireplace as a way to show a warm welcome to returning sailors, whereas young children would go around their neighborhood singing various carols while holding their own handmade boats!