Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Thanksgiving in Greece


Celebrating Thanksgiving in Greece? American Thanksgiving is typically held on the fourth Thursday of November, which this year is November 27.

And if you don’t feel like cooking, there are dinners being organized by American-affiliated groups, schools and hotels.

*Article last updated November 26, 2014. However, answers in ‘Comments’ reflect whatever was true at the time.


Americans, Canadians and Greek-Americans/Canadians seeking to keep the tradition alive, and anyone who wants to join in, have five options:

1. Exit Greece: Many Americans leave during this period from Thanksgiving to after Christmas, especially when they have relatives still living in the United States. It’s the only way to have a proper, authentic Thanksgiving, should purity, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, bickering, tons of football and Black Friday sales be important to you.

2. Get invited to a dinner at an American school in Greece: Students and faculty have the option to invite a limited number of guests should the school, university or college be putting on a Thanksgiving dinner. Be aware that the price of a meal ticket can be steep for small portions and the food may not be prepared in the way you’re accustomed — dry turkey, runny mashed potatoes, no gravy, no pumpkin pie…and worst of all, no leftovers!

  • Deree, American College of Greece held Thanksgiving dinner on November 26 from 20:00-23:00 in the Student Lounge. By ticket only. — Deree Events Calendar
  • ACS Athens: No dinner scheduled for 2014, only the PTO Turkey Bowl on November 22, but the annual Holiday Bazaar takes place on December 5. There’s a bake sale and barbecue with hot dogs and burgers, and proceeds normally go to Toys for Tots.

3. Try a hotel catering to American guests: Some hotels in major cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki offer Thanksgiving dinner at a price, though in 2012 they skipped the holiday and went straight to Christmas. I cannot vouch for quality, as I have no reason to pay for dinner elsewhere when I make my own.

  • Athens Hilton is offering a Thanksgiving buffet for lunch and dinner in its Byzantino restaurant for 43.50 euros a person. Call (210) 728-1400.
  • The Athens Ledra Marriott usually serves Thanksgiving dinner in its Zephyros Restaurant, but no announcement has been made after a change of ownership. In 2013, the cost was €43 for adults and €18 for children aged 12 and under; reservations required.
  • Grand Hotel Bretagne sometimes offers a four-course Thanksgiving dinner at GB Corner (which is currently not in operation). In 2014, Thanksgiving dinner was only mentioned as part of a room/dinner package with no further details.

4. Pay to attend an American-affiliated event: American organizations hold gatherings before and after Thanksgiving, and the price is per person or per table. Everyone speaks English, so no worries if you don’t speak Greek.

  • Democrats Abroad held the Thanksgiving 2014 dinner on November 23 at Ep’avli (DA website) or Roloi (Facebook), depending on what source you believe. You must be an American citizen to purchase tickets, though guests can be any nationality.
  • Republicans Abroad normally hold their dinner on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but I could find no details for the last two years.
  • The American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and International Propeller Club of Piraeus arranged cocktails and Thanksgiving dinner at the Athens Ledra Hotel Grand Ballroom in Athens on Monday, November 24 at 20:30. Tickets were 75 euros per person.
  • AHEPA HellasDaughters of Penelope typically hold their annual charity luncheon after Thanksgiving. No details for 2013 or 2014. In 2011, it was at the Ledra Marriott of Athens. Tickets €40/person, with proceeds going to the Deaf and Mute School of Greece. Contact info was (210) 894-1198 or

*If you have or know of an event to add, please leave a comment with relevant details or a link.

5. Cook it yourself from scratch: This is what I and many friends do. Nearly everything can be found in Greece, and there’s no need to import anything unless you don’t know how, or are too lazy, to cook from scratch. And some good news — cooks burn calories while preparing the meal.

Corn — Καλαμπόκι/kalampoki is the easiest thing on the table. Normally I buy fresh frozen kernels because cobs are expensive (3 cobs for 2 euros) or in limited supply whenever I go to the store, and everyone complains about having to floss afterward. The laiki is a bit cheaper at 0.50 euro/cob, and sometimes you can bargain.

Cranberry sauce — There are stores selling canned cranberry sauce without need for a specialty store or paying exorbitant prices. I got an S&W brand can from the local (not Mega) AB Vassilopoulos in my small neighborhood for just over a euro. I’ve also paid 2.39 euros and had a choice between plain cranberry sauce and cranberry sauce with whole berries from AB; or cranberry in a jar from Lidl for 1 euro (but this was in August). As of April 2014, Lidl also sells dried cranberries in a pouch for 1.99 euros for 200 g, which is significantly lower than the 26.94/kilo price of dried fruit and nut sellers. I’ve never seen fresh or frozen cranberries for sale, but see Katerina in ‘Comments’ for a possible supplier in the center of Athens.
*I often buy an extra can of cranberry at Christmas for Thanksgiving the next year because stores don’t always have them available at the right time.

Stuffing — Got leftover bread? Perfect. Cut it up or shred by hand for a rustic look, dry it out (naturally or in the oven on low heat), moisten it with broth and combine it with fresh parsley, mushrooms, chestnuts, celery, currants or whatever else you normally have. You can also shortcut by using dried rusks, sold cheaply at any grocery store; or you can bake cornbread and treat it the same way as regular bread. No need to import that expensive and “nasty box of Stove Top” from abroad. (Right, C? 😉 )

Mashed potatoes — If you’re going to have mashed potatoes, do it right with fresh potatoes, maybe even leave a bit of skin on them for texture like I do. There’s no need to buy a box of πουρές/poures from the store. Yuck.

Gravy — I have packets of turkey, brown and mushroom gravy that I purchase in the States or have brought/sent to me. Why? Because pan dripping are never enough to accommodate the amount of gravy I need, and I don’t use giblets. There’s a good Turkey Gravy Recipe using wings that you can make ahead.

Sweet potatoes — North Americans erroneously call these yams because slaves used the word ‘nyami’ for sweet potato, and it stuck. But these orange-fleshed gems are indeed sweet potatoes. White sweet potatoes with light red skin are common; orange-fleshed ones with magenta skin are not, so you may want canned ones. If you make the kind of yam pie with marshmallows on top, the only marshmallows I’ve seen are from Germany or Sweden at the price-gouging store, and they’re not the same. I have Jet-puffed from America or minis from Waitrose UK on standby for S’mores, fudge, etc.

Pumpkin pie — This dessert disappears faster than I can make it, which is why I make two every year. I’ve never seen Libby’s canned pumpkin, but it’s because I stopped looking after the first two years (Reader ‘Tauros’ confirms it’s available at price-gouging markets, see ‘Comments’). It’s tastier and healthier to cook from scratch with a real pumpkin. I start the night before by hacking it in half, gutting it, then turning it cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and baking until it collapses a bit. Then all I do is scoop out the pulp and mash or put through a ricer — no peeling, no boiling, and baking enhances the flavor — combine it with the spices and let everything marinate overnight. You can also get a cut pumpkin at the laiki or grocery store, if you prefer not to buy a whole one. Just ask.

Pie crust is from scratch, either graham crackers I had imported or make myself or regular flaky crust. I’ve never seen a pre-made frozen pie crust in Greece, and a homemade one tastes better and is not difficult or scary to make. Warming the pie filling in a double boiler before pouring it into the partially baked pie shell prevents the crust from getting as soggy and speeds baking time. The recipe I use is “Pumpkin Pie” by the King Arthur Flour Company with the optional pepper, which must be freshly ground.

On Thanksgiving, there are no keftedes, tzatziki, feta, horiatiki or “Greek-inspired” dishes on the table. Why? Everyone can put aside their personal agenda and respect my traditions for one meal a year. After all, I never bring tacos, tortellini or fried chicken to Greek Easter, and I would never insist they be added.


Another American Thanksgiving tradition is football, whether people actually watch or fall asleep in front of the TV before halftime. See, “Watch NFL football outside the USA” to find out how you can watch the game live in Greece.


Greeks don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and believe that turkey or γαλοπούλα/galopoula is only for Christmas, so some of what Americans and Canadians typically eat for Thanksgiving gets transferred to December 25. But my point is, sometimes a fresh whole one is difficult or impossible to find in October or November before Thanksgiving.

Fresh: If you find a fresh one at the grocery store or butcher, it might be quite expensive. How much? While Texans are whining about spending $46.52 on dinner for 10 — with a 16-pound turkey, fresh cranberries, pecan pie and all the fixings — the biggest and only fresh six-kilo (12.1 lbs.) bird I found for sale in 2009 was 57 euros ($86), which is €9.50/kilo ($14.25/2.2 lbs). In 2010 and 2011, they were €9.44/kilo. Turkey is supposed to be a native bird to Greece, but it doesn’t mean it’s common or inexpensive.

Parts are a bit less expensive at €3.60/kilo for legs/thighs and €8.50/kilo for boneless breast meat. Price fluctuates daily and varies according to store/butcher.

Frozen: If you don’t mind frozen, you can find imported turkey at locations nearly everywhere in Greece — Lidl, Marinopoulos, AB Vassilopoulos, Sklavenitis, Carrefour — whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas. Should the store be sold out, ask when they expect their next delivery and show up. A friend in northern Greece has a large freezer and thought in advance to get a whole frozen turkey before the holiday season to take advantage of lower prices. In 2011, I found turkeys from France and Brazil for €3.19/kilo and €3.22/kilo, respectively. In 2012, a frozen turkey weighing 3.8 kilos at €3.34/kilo will cost you €12.69. That same turkey now costs 16.50 euros in 2013.

Organic: Should you want a local farm-raised bird and are fine with paying the price, the local butcher can take a pre-order to ensure you get what you want, when you want it (most of the time). Or you can pick up an organic turkey from the American Farm School in Thessaloniki for a limited time each year. They have a self-service store on campus in Thessaloniki and typically distribute them to select locations around Greece (AB Vasilopoulos, butchers) during the week of American Thanksgiving and two weeks before Christmas. Unfortunately in 2011, fresh turkeys never made it to AB markets in time for Thanksgiving; only local butchers had them available at the very last minute or after Thanksgiving was over. For more information, see “Farm Fresh Products – American Farm School in Thessaloniki.”

And if you don’t find a fresh or frozen whole turkey for any price, a nice boneless turkey roast and some turkey legs make a nice meal and can be ready in a fraction of the time, without much prep.

Gobble, gobble! 😀

Related posts

Pilgrims and pumpkins, Mayflower and myths
Thanksgiving” – Greek-American family in northern Greece
Countdown to ‘the thing’
New Year’s in Greece: The meaning of customs and traditions

Looking for a turkey for Christmas in Greece? You should be able to find one with no problem, though price varies widely and availability depends on timing.


  Cωνσtantίnoς wrote @ December 19th, 2008 at 08:01

You’re killing me Kat! it’s early in the morning and still after reading this, I wouldn’t mind having the whole Thanksgiving meal for breakfast or early brunch, right here, right now!!!!!

I have been celebrating Thanksgiving since my college years (attended the American College of Greece) and like you said meals there are not as they should be, however, it’s a decent effort. I’m no expert on the preparations of a Thanksgiving dinner (I’m a great cook though 😛 ) but since the past 2 years I have been celebrating with friends in Stockholm, everything has been homemade (they raised the bar). This year, we even had 4 turkeys cooked according to local recipes from the US; New England, Texas, Montana and Louisiana (the last one was the best) along with everything else you mention. I’m already looking forward to next year’s :P.

I’m hungry now 🙁

Kat Reply:

Hi C — Thanks for confirming what my friends J and K said about their American school dinner. They invited me years ago, but I never went because it was something like 20 euros a plate. Hey, and there’s nothing like a ‘big sandwich’ with turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry. Leftovers never last too long, especially if I have guests who fight over who gets what and how much. 🙁

  Tauros wrote @ December 19th, 2008 at 10:53

Hi Kat,

Several of my (American) friends swear by American Farm School turkeys. They are organically raised and sold only fresh. They are sold only for a limited period of time; per local media, they are available today and tomorrow in Athens at AB Vassilopoulos, and also at Stelios Butchers, 25 Vas. Pavlou, Kastella. And of course, available at the school in Thessaloniki.

Thanopoulos Supermarkets in Kifissia had Libby’s pumpkin this time last year, though I like your idea of making it from scratch.

Happy feasting!

Kat Reply:

Tauros — Yes, those turkeys are good. But people should be prepared to pay. The Libby’s isn’t worth the trouble or the commute, when we can get pumpkins everywhere. Thank you for contributing this information for the benefit of all readers. You’re always very generous and helpful.

  Cheryl wrote @ December 19th, 2008 at 18:43

You are so funny…nice quote by the way! The only thing that I didn’t make myself is the corn, I just bought a few cans from the local grocery store. I could have even made fresh pumpkin pie, as you mentioned, if I knew that someone else would help me eat it.

I won’t put any non-American dishes on my Thanksgiving table either, because you’re right, we’re in Greece and we can have Greek food any time. I’ve celebrated Greek holidays in the U.S. for many years, and we didn’t put American food on the table there.

Nice, enlightening post! Love your stuff!

Kat Reply:

Cheryl — Haha! 😉 Fresh frozen corn is less expensive and, in my opinion, better tasting than canned, but it really depends on availability and people’s tastes. For example, you said that no one eats pumpkin pie when you make it; but in my house, it disappears.

  FMS wrote @ December 20th, 2008 at 03:09

As I would prefer to deal with an English-speaking turkey, I bought an American Farm one (the only one left in my AB) for a mere 52 euros. I am also trying to follow the quaint American accompaniments/garnishes that you have so kindly itemised above.

To this end, I decided that I should find out what cranberries are. Google was very obliging:

* Historically, cranberry fruits and leaves were used for a variety of problems, such as wounds, urinary disorders, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach ailments, and liver problems.
* Recently, cranberry products have been used in the hope of preventing or treating urinary tract infections or Helicobacter pylori infections that can lead to stomach ulcers, or to prevent dental plaque. Cranberry has also been reported to have antioxidant and anticancer activity.

So, now I understand why this sauce is so important for your turkey meals in the USA. Obviously, the excessive meat and alcohol consumption can be offset by the cranberries. Not sure why so many people get wounded during the meal, though: maybe that’s only in NY.

Kat Reply:

FMS — Expectations of a bird being tasty are significantly raised when paying 52 euros. The turkey I purchased for Thanksgiving was fresh from Italy and significantly less…and just as juicy and tasty, in my opinion. Let us know.

  FMS wrote @ December 21st, 2008 at 04:46

An update on the cranberry issue: I have (sadly) realised that cranberries do not exist in Europe. Apparently, the plants were taken from Scotland to the USA rather a long time ago, and no longer have suitable habitat in Scotland. As I refuse to use anything other than fresh (or, at a minimum, recently-frozen) berries, I have been investigating blackcurrants and redcurrants.

Happily. I have a stock of frozen blackcurrants that can be utilised. Neverthless, I was curious about how close (or far) they are to cranberries. Imagine my surprise to find out that although these berries were very popular in the USA in the 19th century, the bushes were banned about 100 years ago as a federal offence. Apparently, they somehow interfered with large-scale logging (read, money-making) and the growing of the bushes was decriminalised in NY in 2005. It is still illegal in the rest of the USA.

So, my American friends, we Europeans do not know what cranberries are about, and you do not know what red- and blackcurrants are about (allegedly). So far as I can understand, although they are different genuses, their taste and health attributes are similar, except that cranberries need more added sugar and are not really edible raw. My turkey will be consumed with blackcurrant sauce, tarted up with some orange zest and muted with some fructose. And chestnut stuffing… I fear that these are probably a different species in the USA too, but I am going to ignore that possibility and just prepare a French style chestnut stuffing.

Kala Xristougenna!

Kat Reply:

Cranberries are significantly different than currants or other berries. If you refuse to use anything but fresh, you can’t find them in Greece as far as I know (again, I stopped looking years ago when after learning the Greek word for ‘cranberry,’ no one knew what it was; they assumed it was blackcurrant). However, they are available in other EU countries. My friend Mausi has them in Germany. See, “Everything’s covered with powdered sugar.” My friends in Sweden have them also.

Ocean Spray had a reduced crop this year due to weather. But to boost earnings, it has gone abroad to expand its market. Greece isn’t included…yet. See, “Cranberries go abroad,” if you’re interested.

Btw, there is cranberry juice from Ocean Spray readily available at most grocery stores in a jar or paketo; I’ve seen plain, cran raspberry and cran blackcurrant. It’s about double what I pay in the USA and Sweden, but sometimes I get a craving and buy it if I’ve run out.

  FMS wrote @ December 21st, 2008 at 15:22

I was shocked to read (in your link):

In France, cranberry juice is blended with mango juice, one of the country’s more popular beverages. In Australia and Britain, cranberry sauce is becoming a popular side dish.

However, I now vaguely recall once drinking cranberry juice in the UK. In this somewhat distant recollection, I remember it as being not very different from redcurrants but slightly more astringent (and therefore more interesting).

Kat Reply:

I like the taste of cranberry much more than red currant or or black currant. It’s not for everyone though.

  Margaret wrote @ December 21st, 2008 at 17:27

FMS, must be a while since you visited the UK. It’s flooded with cranberries and cranberry juice – particularly since it is supposed to have wonderfully healing properties and ward against a discomfort that most women are very keen to avoid, particularly in the festive season. Every house I know has a carton lingering somewhere, and cranberryandorange is the new ginandtonic. I’m sure it won’t be long before cranberries are available in Greece.

Kat Reply:

M – True, I remember seeing it there the last time I visited. Cranberry got a boost when purple hooters were popular, and then cosmopolitans at the height of Sex and the City.

  melusina wrote @ December 21st, 2008 at 18:42

What drives me nuts about Thanksgiving dinner here is I can’t find yellow squash! I miss me a good squash casserole. Even though my mom yells at me, I need fresh, moist bread for my stuffing. I know it is wrong, but it is sooo good. I never have trouble making plenty of gravy from pan drippings, and I don’t use giblets either. I usually add a cup or two of water, some seasonings, and the flour paste to thicken it. Always turns out nicely. But I confess this year we went with poure instead of real potatoes because I couldn’t figure out how many potatoes we’d need for 12 people, and I just didn’t want the hassle. But from now on we won’t be inviting so many people. NEVER again!

The pumpkin pie – NOBODY eats it. I made a pumpkin and pecan this year, and the pecan was gone in seconds while the pumpkin just sat there. People won’t even try it! I can get Libby’s pumpkin at a store here in downtown Thessaloniki. For the record, I’ve yet to see a pumpkin anywhere, but Cheryl has found some around here so I guess they can be had!

Happy Holidays Kat =)

Kat Reply:

Mel – Nothing wrong with moist stuffing if it’s done right. I actually don’t cook stuffing inside the carcass because I boil the bones for soup, thus giving me the freedom to do as I please without worry. Good to hear you have enough gravy; but as I said, I require more because it’s used for not only turkey, but potatoes, hot turkey sandwiches, regular sandwiches with a “moist layer” in the middle, and some people use it on the stuffing. Plus, if I cook a turkey roast, there are no pan drippings, so I use a packet to compensate.

The pie issue is the opposite for me. Whether it’s sweet potato pie or pumpkin, it disappears. Everyone is suspicious of the pecan, and I end up eating that on my own.

  dwain wrote @ December 23rd, 2008 at 10:19

Have a merry Xmas, Kat, and καλι χρονια! (I have no clue how to spell that properly)

Kat Reply:

Thanks D! I hope you and M had a nice Christmas in the USA and welcome back to Athens 🙂

  Dora wrote @ December 24th, 2008 at 00:39

Hope all is well. Have a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year!

Kat Reply:

How sweet of you. I was thinking about you the other day, wondering if I’d lost you. It’s nice to see I haven’t.

  photene wrote @ December 24th, 2008 at 01:08

Merry Christmas and may 2009 bring us all peace and prosperity. Cheers!

Kat Reply:

Another sweet person! Hope you had a good New Year’s!

  Katerina wrote @ January 11th, 2009 at 18:04

Frozen cranberries can be found in a Polish delicatessen in the Lachano agora in Athinas st. If you are facing the agora with your back to the meat market , the shop is on the right side of the veg market about 3 shops down from Athinas. Saw them there last week. Too late for your Thanksgiving, but keep it in mind for later this year.

Kat Reply:

Hi K, thanks so much for the tip.

  Maggie wrote @ November 18th, 2009 at 08:59

Hello all,

I just found this site and I just had to put my 2 cents in. I’m a Greek -American and I ‘ve also been living in Greece for the past 15 years. I have celebrated Thanksgiving every single year with every last detail. Thank God for english stores and BASILOPOULO they carry everything. I always make pumpkin pie, and my family loves it. I would like to be a permanent here. Do you have a twitter page or facebook?

I hope everyone has a great THANKSGIVING !!

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.