The sun came back to Athens today and as Athenians race around for last minute gifts, the city’s holiday festivals are in full swing. While the Greeks spend the holidays with friends and family, the city is still filled with visitors wondering just what there is to do in Athens on days like Christmas day when the archeological sites and museums are closed. Well, contrary to popular belief, the city of Athens does not roll up on Christmas Eve. Already mentioned on this blog was the Christmas Eve open air celebration at Technopolis, but for those who want to share the musical spirit or just experience a bit of very traditional modern Greek culture, consider spending Christmas Eve or Boxing Day (December 26, the day after Christmas) with Giorgos Dalaras and friends at the Palace Theater. Right from the Start (“Ola apo tin arxi”) is a retrospective of Greek music featuring Dalaras and a group of young singers, actors and a 14 piece band. Ticket prices range from 27 to 73 euro and at the time of this entry were still available for both December 25 and December 26, 2007 and can be ordered online here: http://www.ellthea.gr/show_event?id=153&lang=en.

For visitors to Greece not familiar with Dalaras, he is, on some level, synonymous with Greek music. The child of a rembetika singer in the 50s and 60s, Dalaras released his first album in 1969 and has gone on to record more than 50 more on his own as well as appearing along with other musicians in almost the same number of recordings. He has worked with such famous Greek composers as Mikos Theodorakis, Apostolis Kaldaras, Stavros Kouyioumitsis, Yiannis Markopoulos, Manos Loizos, Stavros Xarhakos and recorded just about every style of Greek music (along with “Latin”, a fantastic recording of latin music with latin style Greek music on the flip side.

An evening with Dalaras is not just another evening of music. It is a journey into the heart and sole of the Greek pathos – His energy and charisma on stage are contagious, and the each time I see him perform I am awed as an American watching the audience, always a diverse generational mix, yet young and old seem to know every word to the songs he sings, and when Dalaras motions for the band to stop as the audience sings, and everyone is joined in song, the warmth I feel in my heart reminds me once more why I fell in love with Greece and the Greeks.

So, if you are looking for the perfect Christmas present for yourself, your friends or family, and you all happen to be in Athens over Christmas this year, an evening with Dalaras will be a gift they never forget.