The Christmas boat or “karavaki” as Greeks call it is the most Greek tradition you will find in the country around the holidays. In the past Greeks, being a nautical people, would decorate boats instead of Christmas trees.
The tradition of “karavakia” comes from the connection between Greece and the sea. Some say that it was a way to thank Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, for protecting the people who worked at sea. Others believe that it showed the people’s longing for their families, fathers and brothers, who worked as sailors and could not be around for Christmas. The bright lights on the Greek Christmas boats might have been an effort to show the way back home to all these sailors and even people who had migrated to other countries.
Even though it is a tradition of the past, “karavakia” are now making a comeback. Nowadays, you can find decorated Christmas boats in city centers, usually next to the international Christmas tree.
What about you? Do you decorate a small Christmas boat at home? Help us learn what Greeks abroad do at Christmas at our Greek Christmas Traditions survey.