The Christmas tree is an ancient Greek custom – It is not exotic

The Christmas tree is an ancient Greek custom – It is not exotic

The students of the 2nd primary school in Drama were taught the tradition of ancient Iresioni from which the custom of decorating a Christmas tree began. See how it started

Most people think that the custom of the Christmas tree is alien in our homeland, as Greece never had firs or pines to decorate, as was the case mainly in the countries of northern Europe.

However, he had one blessed treefamous and well-known since ancient times, which is none other than olive. The olive, therefore, was the forerunner of today’s Christmas tree and more specifically a decorated olive branchs, which bore the name Iresionini.

As Eleni Smoloktou, a teacher from the 2nd primary school of Drama, who decided to revive this custom with her students this year, explains, speaking to APE-MPE, “Iresioni, the olive branch, roamed the streets of Athens, on the seventh day of the month Pyanepsionos, which is between September 20 and October 20. Iresioni was surrounded by “ambivalent” children, i.e. children whose parents were both alive. They sang the carols, the “kalendas”, which Homer himself recorded 3000 years ago. They went from house to house giving wishes and collecting tips from the master or lady of the house. As much as we don’t believe it, even today’s Christmas tree has its roots in ancient Greece.”

Iresioni comes from the word eiros or erion which means sheep’s wool. The children decorated the olive branch with red and white threads (ribbons) made from sheep’s wool and hung various tree fruits on it, such as figs, walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, cereals and sometimes small bottles of oil and honey.

The history of ancient custom

According to tradition, the custom of Iresioni established by Theseus, when he started to go to Crete to kill the Minotaur and stopped at Delos, where he sacrificed to Apollo. There, he promised the god that if he won the battle with the Minotaur, he would offer him decorated olive branches to please him. Returning to his homeland, Theseus fulfilled his promise thus establishing the institution of Iresioni. During the years of the Roman Empire, the custom continued and was enriched, even on the branches of the olive began to hang lanterns that illuminated.

“However, with the prevalence of the new religion, Christianity”, underlines Mrs. Smoloktou, “the custom was considered pagan and was banned. But it was very deeply rooted in the consciousness of the world. In fact, through their travels, the Greeks also spread it to the northern peoples, who, due to the lack of olive trees, decorated branches from the trees that grew in their areas, such as firs. The first to bring the Christmas tree in the form we know it today was King Otto and the Bavarians who accompanied him to Greece.”

Historical tradition states that the Bavarians decorated a Christmas tree since the 16th century, however in Greece the first Christmas tree was decorated in 1833 by Otto in Nafplion, who defeated the traditional boat that had prevailed as a custom as it was more in line with the maritime tradition of Greece. our homeland.

From the Iresiones to Homer’s carols

Mrs. Smoloktou, in an effort for the students to get to know our history and traditions better, decided this year during the holidays to plan an activity aimed at the children’s understanding of all those customs that have been kept alive through the centuries, despite the any modifications and changes they received in order to adapt each time to the needs of society.

“Our students are really excited about the idea of ​​reviving this ancient custom,” emphasizes the teacher of the 2nd primary school of Drama and adds: “Already, the children decorated their own Iresionas, which they decorated with ribbons and fruits. So, on Friday morning, all the students and teachers will visit Oniroupolis. There, we will revive the custom through a beautiful event prepared by the children. In fact, we also chose an olive tree, which the children will decorate there.”

The revival of the tradition does not stop here, since on Monday morning, a week before Christmas, the students, each keeping their Iresioni, will visit the authorities of the city to sing the carols recorded by Homer himself. “It is very important”, emphasizes Ms. Smoloktou, “for the children to understand that even today’s carols have their origins in those carols of Homer. The only thing we don’t know is the music they had. However, Eugenia Manolidou composed music and set Homer’s lyrics to music. We got in touch with her and asked for her permission so that we could use the music and let the children have this unique experience.”

A total of 190 children from the first to the sixth grade of elementary school, on Friday and next Monday, young and old will “travel” in the ancient Greek tradition. Reviving a unique custom and singing Homer’s carols in ancient Greek, as they have survived to this day, but having been integrated into the newer Greek tradition of Christmas and New Year.


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