December 2018- sunny winter days!
It might be winter but to look outside you wouldn’t believe it. Here on the south of Crete in Agia Galini we continue to enjoy the blue sky and sunshine. It is a bit cooler and we have had a few good downpours but nothing really to complain about! An indication that winter has arrived in the village is the population halves with fewer tourists, but we still see the occasion traveller passing through. Our harbour currently has half a dozen boats sitting in the car park(!) with the owners taking advantage of the good weather to paint and maintain the boats ready for next years season.
For me, December is a month filled with celebration, and hopefully promises a positive conclusion to the year. In Greece there are a lots of opportunities for a party with several name day celebrations: St Nicholas on the 6th, Spyridon the 12th, Eleftherios on the 15th and of course Christos or Kristina on the 25th. Although Christmas Day is not as popular as it is in the west, it is still a good cause for a family gathering with plenty of food, drink and general merriment. Families and friends are brought together to enjoy dishes of roast meats, seasonal vegetables and sweet biscuits, including melomakarona and kourabiedes; the latter with the dusty, powder sugar coating are very messy to eat, but extremely delicious! (Before leaving the house or talking with anyone, after eating one or several of these, you might want to check around the corners of your mouth and the front of your clothes for any giveaway traces of dusty sugar!)
The seasonal winter fruits of tangerines, clementines and satsumas are hanging on the trees like fragrant and juicy Christmas baubles, which can be bought by the generous bagful straight from the farmers who sell them at the roadside. Winter vegetables are in abundance at the local markets, and provide the perfect fresh ingredients for a lovely hearty winter soup. Hot, roasted castana/chestnuts are also on sale at the market places and are lovely to nibble while looking around. Long vibrant green leeks, bright orange carrots, jars of fruits preserved in syrup, olives stored in old water bottles provide an interesting display, especially along the roadside towards Heraklion airport at Agia Vavara, where I think they grow the most enormous cabbages in the world!
To compliment the festivities the White Mountains and the Psiloritis mountains have been dusted with snow and although the evening temperatures are cooler, but not really cold yet, I can still manage an evening stroll around the harbour without a big, winter coat.
The sunsets and sunrises have been particularly spectacular recently, with stunning displays of light reflected on the sea; a wonderful start and end to each day. As the end of the year approaches we can anticipate the winter blooms of the Narcissus, Anemone and Iris flowers, which are simply just beautiful.
New year is traditional in Greece for getting new clothes and for eating the special bread, Vasilopita, containing a lucky coin. So get your glad-rags on and see the year out and a new year in surrounded by your nearest and dearest and celebrate the year that has been, and what is yet to come… best wishes everyone!
Photo of Agia Galini from the harbour by sandysingssongs.com.