CHRISTMAS IN CRETE IS DELIGHTFULLY SWEET!
As the countdown to the holidays begins, everyone looks forward to tucking into traditional festive treats, intrinsically linked with the joyous season. With households coming to life thanks to the tantalising aromatic blends of sugar, cinnamon, cloves and hazelnuts, the chilly winter air fills with the promise of light, love and hope. Trust us, you will be wanting more after the very first bite!
Our journey in the world of tasty tradition begins with “christopsomo”, literally translated as Christ’s bread, present at every Cretan holiday feast. Prepared usually by the matriarch of the family with a hearty dose of love, the delicious loaf carries strong meanings tethered to Ortho-dox beliefs and as such is considered sacred. Buttery, spicy and infused with cinnamon, orange and cloves – the perfect tempting combination, the bread is given its round shape, sprinkled with sesame seeds and is then adorned with a cross. Then, the possibilities are endless and usu-ally down to preference and family tradition: many choose to decorate it further with nuts and raisins while others opt for the more subdued version. A delicious reminder of community and togetherness, after its initial preparation grandmothers keep part of the dough to make mini christopsoma for their grandchildren.
Another must-have for a quintessentially Cretan Christmas are the decadent “avgokalamara”. A veritable labour of love, these light, crispy treats made out of dough and then fried in olive oil, fill every home with wonderful smells and tantalise even the most distinguished of palates. Once the avgokalamara have reached peek levels of crisp and crunch in the frying pan, it’s high time for them to receive the final touches: a generous drizzle of honey syrup and an open-handed sprinkle of crushed walnuts. Notoriously tricky to master, even under the expert guid-ance of the most seasoned baker, the avgokalamara are linked to moments of jubilant celebra-tion and rejoicing, making them an unmissable treat for anyone with a sweet tooth!
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a greek home without a mountain of fresh Melomakarona on the table, ready to be shared with loved ones and regale grandchildren. Cretans naturally honour the tradition and each year the scent of these soft and fragrant honey cookies emanates from every home. Prepared with flour, orange, olive oil and honey, all of them mediterranean favour-ites, the cookies are baked and then steeped in hot honey syrup. A guaranteed hit for all ages, their flavour a combination of Christmas cheer in small, irresistible bites. Here too, expertise and experience are a must as the perfect balance of crisp and softness must be achieved for a suc-cessful batch. The only catch? It is impossible to stop after the first one.
Kourabiedes are yet another holiday must-have in Crete. These sweet and crumbly shortbread type of cookies are prepared with fresh butter, rosewater and crunchy toasted almonds and en-velop the space with their inimitable fragrance just minutes after they reach the oven. Once cooled, they are sprinkled with a hefty dose of icing sugar which gives them their eye-catching snowball look making them a hit for all ages and offering every spread another touch of winter magic. With butter being more of a luxury in the past, these sweets were typically reserved for celebratory occasions which makes their addition to the Christmas table a true testament to the lavishness reserved to the Christmas season.
Wishing you all a sweet and Merry Christmas and a New Year full of health and hope from all of us at Elounda Gulf Villas!