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It's a Greek Christmas

Christmas is not normally a time to dwell upon the delights of Greek Island holidays but there are an unusual number of parallels between winter religious celebrations in the UK and Greece

Each Christian country celebrates the event in its own way, of course, and a county's customs will have deep roots to its own traditions and history.

But there are still many connections to be found between Christmas celebrations in different countries and Greece and the UK are no different.

The Greek Orthodox Church is, of course Christian, and its origins are found in the early churches of the Apostles that were started in the first century A.D.

But Greek Orthodox churches, unlike the Catholic church, have no popes or bishops and hold the belief that Jesus Christ is the head of the church.

But there are also remarkable similarities between the celebrations of the birth of Christ and ancient Greek myths. It was during December that the ancient Greeks celebrated the birth of Dionysus and called him the 'saviour' and the 'divine infant.'

One of the UK's best known customs is the singing of carols, but these too may have their roots in ancient Greece. While Homer was on the island of Samos he composed songs of joy and peace for children to sing in the homes of the rich.

The children went from house to house carrying an olive branch and several varieties of fruit, hanging the olive branch on the door of the houses they sang outside.

The Christmas tree may have its origins on Germany the end of the 16th century but ancient Greeks also decorated their ancient temples with tree.

Santa Claus too uses a sleigh pulled by reindeer to deliver his Christmas gifts but, according to the Greek legend, the chariot of the god Dionysus changes into a sleigh and his horses into reindeer.

Santa Claus himself is thought to derive from the Greek bishop of Smyrna, Agios Nikolaos, who is reputed to have dropped bags of money down the chimneys of his neighbours.