Kalanta – Carols

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Kalanta (κάλαντα) in contemporary times are traditionally sung on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and Epiphany. The carols are different for each festivity as they refer to the Nativity of Christ for Christmas, to St Basil for New Years and to the Baptism of Christ at Epiphany.

The tradition of the Kalanta however, has its roots in ancient Greece adopted during the Byzantine period. The word itself derives from the Latin calendae which means “the beginning of the month”, and while the form of the custom has changed as we moved from the ancient to the Christian belief system, two aspects remain the same. Firstly, the custom of giving gifts, sweets and even money to the singers and secondly, the custom of singing for the health and prosperity of the head of the household.

Another cultural aspect of Kalanta is that each area or island of Greece has carols unique to that region. This is reflected in the words of the carols which tell of historical events, customs and traditions. Children will dress in traditional costume and go from door to door with triangles, harmonicas and accordions and shout out loud «να τα πουμε;» (shall we sing them?). The response is always an emphatic «να τα πητε!» (say them!).

Kalanta also have a philanthropic element, as they are used as a means to raise much-needed funds for charity. Many groups visit hospitals and nursing homes during the Christmas period, so that the elderly and sick will not miss out on the joy of the Season.

This tradition, which started in Greece, continues on in the Diaspora: passed on from generation to generation. Will you think about continuing this tradition?


Source: December-January 2015 Lychnos Edition