Greek Christmas Calanda/Carols (meaning & translation)
“Kάλαντα” in Greece
What does «κάλαντα» mean;
Τα κάλαντα got their name from the Latin word “calenda”, which means the beginning of the month. In Roman times, relatives and friends celebrated the first days of each month. They visited each other and exchanged sweet delicacies such as honey, figs and dates, but also small coins.
Calanda in Greek tradition
In Greece, calanda have a religious as well as popular character. These songs praise the divine element and praise the faces of the family at the same time. The carols often changed depending on the family that listened to them, its members, their age, social class and their occupation. Each village and island in Greece had its own traditional carols, which contained details from the local community and economy.
Calanda are one of the most “lively” customs of Greek Christmas. They are sung on the day before Christmas & New Year and sometimes on the day of Lights (January 6). Each song is different and narrates different events. The children, in pairs of two or more, start early in the morning with the musical instruments that will accompany their song. The most common is the triangle, but many take guitars, harmonicas or even accordions.
“Shall we say it?”
The children go from house to house in their neighborhoods and ring the bell. They ask “Shall we say it?”. The answer is usually positive, “Say it!”. The children stand at the door or in the living room of the house and sing the carols. When they are done, they wish the hosts “Merry Christmas” and / or “Many happy returns”, and the hosts give them money and sweets, melomakarona and kourabiedes.
Listen to the Christmas calanda below. Every year, beginner students of Hellenic Culture Center learn how to sing the calanda and ask us “but what do they mean?” That’s why we’re translating them for you in English below. You can read the lyrics and sing too!