An Introduction to Christmas in Chania
Almost every year I spend my Christmas in Chania. The customs and traditions differ from most parts of Greece, but the Cretans have a unique way to live and enjoy every moment. It may not be a traditional ‘conventional’ Christmas destination but I can guarantee you that Christmas is magical in Chania! Especially if you stay in the “jewel” of the old city, the Domus Renier Boutique Hotel.
Christmas Eve in Chania
I like I get up at dawn on Christmas eve. Descending from the cape of Souda to the Venetian harbor in Chania, I always ask the taxi to stop on the balcony of the Church of the Prophet Elias by the tomb of the great Eleftherios Venizelos. From here I gaze down on the city of Chania from above and admire it in its beauty. I’m still sleepy, but invigorated by the excitement and promise of the day ahead!
Christmas at Domus Renier Boutique Hotel in Chania
For my Christmas holiday in Chania, I chose to stay again at Domus Renier Boutique Hotel in the old town city center, as my summer stay at this magnificent Chania Harbour Hotel left me with the best impressions. I catch a waft of a sweet aroma coming from the kitchens – the Chef Vassilis Rye is creating some delicious Christmas treats! An amazing pomegranate liqueur made for Christmas, traditional Greek melomakarona cookies, and sweet buns using a secret recipe handed down from the grandmother of the owners.
I feel so lucky with my upgrade to the Marussa and Renier sea view Honeymoon Suite. It almost feels like a museum space with its gorgeous painted ceilings and wonderful old walls, all housed inside a warm and festive historic townhouse mansion in Chania. In my suite I find waiting for me at the table a basket of a fresh Christmas arrangement with cranberries, mistletoe, thyme and lots of exciting plants from the Cretan countryside. Looking out of the window I see the sweeping sea view of Chania’s Venetian harbor festively decorated from end to end. Now it’s time, as I sit in my suite’s Oriel balcony – the most panoramic interior balcony in all of Chania – for me to tell you what you can do to enjoy Christmas in Chania…
Christmas Walks Around Chania
After your yummy breakfast at Domus Renier Boutique Hotel, you should go for your second coffee of the day at The Garden. This year I found it brighter and more Christmassy than ever. I paused in the frozen forest and grabbed myself a selfie at the Snow Castle. A wander through Chania market is a must, especially on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, to hear the choir groups sing traditional Cretan carols. (Oh the sound!) The walkways around the market are adorned with tastefully Christmas decorations and engulfed in the tantalising scent of fresh coffee. And if you like donuts, you’re in the perfect place! Sit at Chronos, by the market stairs and enjoy their fresh sweet donuts with lots of sesame and cinnamon. Then head to Daskalogianni to descend down again to Chania harbour. In the KAM gallery there is always something interesting to see. This year there is an exhibition of paintings by Peter Xenakis you can visit until the 10th of January. As you admire his work it makes you feel like you’ve travelled back in time and are walking around the harbour of yesteryear.
Christmas Religious Traditions in Chania
Every year the Catholic church on Halidon Street organizes a concert with Christmas songs. I can recommend it highly! It will get you into the Christmas spirit straightaway! Personally, I like to combine a visit to the Christmas concert with the drink in my favorite jazz bar, Fagotto in a traditional building on Angelon Street, decorated with with original art throughout. What’s more, even if you have a little too much to drink, the Domus Renier Boutique Hotel has such a convenient location nearby! On Christmas Eve I suggest you visit the cave of St. John the Hermit at Marathokefala in Kissamos, 20 km west of Chania. The liturgy here is combined with a representation of the Nativity of Christ. Farmers from the region bring in cave animals and light bonfires. Chimes and bells ring joyfully and a big star shines from the top of the cave. It’s truly magical! But be warned, dress warm and be prepared for the crowds!
Traditional Christmas Food in Crete
If you’ve hired a car and are exploring the Cretan countryside and you are lucky enough to come across a local who invites you into one of the native pig slaughterhouses, you must immediately accept the invitation! You will be taking part in one of the oldest traditions in Crete. Years ago, each family in a rural village in Crete would keep a pig. The pig would be slaughtered on Christmas Eve and would be the main dish on Christmas day. So the traditional Christmas food in Chania is not turkey, but pork with celery. No part of the Christmas pig is wasted, and the pork meat is used to create all sorts of dishes and treats. This includes homemade sausages and omathies (intestines stuffed with rice, raisins and chopped liver). Not forgetting tsigarida too – pieces of cooked fat with spices, and perfect for spreading on bread. In the olden days it was the ideal snack for the olive gatherers who needed the energy to keep them going throughout the day in the groves.
Chania Santa Run
I love the Chania Santa Run! I attended the event in its first ever year, when over 300 people dressed up as Santa Claus and traveled around the city mall to reach the Venetian harbor. We didn’t know then but we were writing history! This year, the Santa Run in Chania has so far exceeded 4,000 entries! Income from the Santa costumes that the runners buy, and from the sponsors who support the event, is given to four charities who look after children in our city with health problems. The whole city of Chania takes part in the Santa Run! From the stores along the route offering treats to participants to a Chania DJ who fills the city streets with music. This year Chania will be awash with Santas on December 26, and immediately afterwards there will be an afterparty with a performance by the Onirama DownTown band. The Santa Run combines joy and solidarity. For those of us who will participate for the 6th consecutive year, there would virtually be no Christmas without Santa Run. Do not miss it!
Christmas in Chania – the best celebration
Of course, I think Chania is wonderful all the time, for the sun and fun summer holidays and winter holidays too. It’s a brilliant destination for every celebration, but it really is extra special at Christmas. We hope you will join us sometime at the Domus Renier Boutique Hotel to enjoy the incredible experience of Christmas in Chania. You won’t regret it!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all the team at the Domus Renier Boutique Hotel!