Aspect of Greece Traditions in Rich Greek Culture
Contemporary Greek customs and traditions are very diverse. Greece features a rich culture full of customs and rituals that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Greece is a country that is rich in history, culture, traditions, and religion. Customs and traditions in Greece and the Greek Islands one important aspect of the Greek culture.Most customs and traditions in Greece and the Greek Islands are of a religious nature, but some stem from paganism. Furthermore, most of the traditions and festivals still celebrated today are religious. The Greeks are very superstitious and believe a lot in religion but also in supernatural or paranormal phenomenon. Traditions and superstitions vary from island to island, from villages to villages and from region to region. You will find bellow the many Greek traditions still honoured in Greek modern culture, no matter people’s age, until today. Thetraditions are known for their belief in the Greek Gods, where philosophy was first discovered, the amazing architecture such as the Parthenon, and the creation of the Olympics, just to name a few. Even though the country has been through a lot of changes throughout history, the people still value Greek culture.
But, of course, Greek family traditions extend beyond just the happy times. When a family member dies, women usually wear black for up to a year to show their respect, while men wear black armbands for up to 40 days. Women also make special food such as kollyva, a boiled wheat dish, and paximadia, a biscuit similar to biscotti.
The Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is an integral part of life in Greece where the most important holidays are religious in nature and the national religion is practiced by the majority of the population. Greece and Orthodoxy are closely connected due to the country’s historical past. During several occupations, and especially during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, the Orthodox religion played a vital role in maintaining the Greek ethnic and cultural identity. Today the Church is more important in political, civic, and governmental affairs than in many other secular countries.
Celebration and Festival Traditions
Christmas in Greece, or “the holidays,” are not what they were 40 years ago. Over the years we notice a universal culture developing as the western European customs spread more and more change. In some cases, it caused the elimination of local customs in certain areas – even entire countries.Today Christmas in Greece appears more impressive, glossier and more glamorous. Store windows are decorated almost a month in advance, and in the cities the streets and town squares are lit with colourful lights. Also, many people now travel either abroad or around Greece to places which offer winter holidays.Greeks will party at clubs, at bouzoukia, which have almost disappeared in Crete, or stay at home and watch some impressive holiday show on television. But on Christmas Day, all family members gather at the festively set dinner table.
Another big Greek celebration is “Apokries” or Carnival. The Carnival is two weeks long, beginning from the Sunday of Meat Fare and ending with the start of Lent, (Clean Monday). People wear carnival costumes and party in the streets and bars, throwing colored confetti to each other. The most famous Carnival parade takes place in the city of Patra. It is believed that this custom has pagan roots, and originates from the old festivities worshiping Dionysus, the God of Wine.
Easter is by far the most important celebration for the Greeks, even Christmas comes second. The celebrations for Easter truly begin two months before, but Holy Week is the peak of these activities. According to the Orthodox tradition, the symbolic red Easter eggs are dyed on Holy Thursday. Greeks believe that the Virgin Mother, Mary, dyed eggs this color (the color of blood) to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and life. On Holy Thursday women are also busy baking kouloúria – dough cookies and tsouréki – the traditional Easter sweet bread. Godparents buy news shoes, clothes and a candle to the kids and, in villages, the exterior of the houses and the streets are whitewashed.
Name Day Celebration
Since most Greeks are named after a religious saint, their name is celebrated by the church on a given day of the year. Friends and family will visit the person, without invitation, and offer gifts or blessings. This tradition is considered more important to a person than their birthday.
It is a custom in Greece to get engaged before get married. The man has to ask for the hand of the woman from her father and close family, while the two families give presents to bride and groom.
Marriage is another big celebration in Greece. In some parts, outside Athens and other big cities, the bride still has a dowry made by her mother, grandmothers and aunts, consisting of sheets, towels and hand made embroideries, while the father of the bride traditionally offers a furnished home to his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift. On the day of the wedding, the bride gets dressed with the help of girlfriends and women from her family, and is kept hidden, for it is bad luck for the groom to see her before the ceremony.
- The Pomegranate: The pomegranate is a symbol of happy times, fertility and prosperity in Greek folklore.
- Evil Eye: The most commonly talked about ancient superstition in the Greek Isles. The evil eye can strike at any given moment. Perhaps there was an occasion that you were dressed up and someone told you how nice you look.
- Bat Bones: For some People bat bones are considered to be very lucky. These people carry a small bit of the bone in their pockets or purses with them where ever they go, although killing a bat is deemed to bring bad luck.
- Cactus: No Greek home would be complete without at least one cactus positioned somewhere near the front entrance.
- Sailing: It used to be an ill omen to start a voyage on certain days of the week. Friday was one, the origin for this being that the Crucifixion took place on a Friday.
- Crows: Crows are considered omens of bad news, misfortune and death.
Other Traditions and Customs
- People knock on wood or “move” from their place to avoid a jinx.
- Greeks threat of putting pepper in someone’s tongue when he or she is cursing.
- Greeks consider black cats as bad luck.
- Projecting your hand with your fingers open is considered very rude.
- Looking away when talking to someone is considered very rude.
- On New Years Eve people gamble for good luck.
- Never make a toast when drinking water or coffee.
- In Greece people twist a coin when faced with a dilemma.
- Mothers throw the baby teeth of their children on the roof, so that the new one grows strong.
- People in Greece celebrate both birthdays and name days.
- If you fall asleep under a cypress tree it will steal your brains.