Visit our festive display of vibrant little boats (karavákia)

Greektown is kicking off the holiday season with some vibrant holiday décor! We’re all lit up in festive blue and white lights along Halsted Street (the colors of the Greek flag) and our traditional Holiday Karavákia Display returns from December 1 through January 15.

In Greece, there is an old Christmas tradition of decorating karavákia (little boats) with paint, lights and other materials. The Greektown Arts Committee brings this unique tradition to life in Chicago’s Greektown by inviting 30+ local artists to decorate little boat models and providing them to neighborhood businesses to display a karaváki or two in their windows or in a prominent place for public viewing throughout the holiday season.

We will also be showcasing a larger karaváki, painted by distinguished artist James Mesple, near the temple at Elysian Field (southeast corner of Halsted and Van Buren Streets), where our annual holiday tree is located.

The origin of the karavákia tradition

The Greek people have always had a deep connection with the sea. From ancient times, the waters that surround Greece were an important source of livelihood. But the seas are treacherous, and as sailors went out, their families prayed for their safe return. Many also crafted beautiful little boats in these periods of absence and to celebrate the sailors’ return. During the Christmas season, children carried these karavákia while caroling door-to-door and often received sweets for their efforts.

One legend has it that Saint Nicholas (the patron saint of sailors) played an important part in the karavákia story. The feast day of St. Nicholas is celebrated on December 6, with great festivity and at a time when many preparations are beginning for Christmas. Hence, decorating karavákia was a way for the Greeks to honor St. Nicholas for bringing sailors safely home for the holidays.

Visit Greektown Chicago and enjoy the Holiday Karavákia Display that combines modern-day art with homeland traditions. This vibrant art display celebrating the holiday season is sponsored by Greektown SSA #16.

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