Traditional customs in Greece and across the its many islands are an important part of the country’s ancient history and culture. Whether they are religious or of pagan origins, each are important to the vast history of the country. Below is a collection of popular Greek traditions still honored in modern Greek culture.
Getting engaged before marriage is a commonly accepted custom in Greece. The man must ask for the hand of the woman from her father and close family, while both families share gifts with the groom and bride. The couple trade wedding rings that are worn on the left hand andafter the wedding ceremony, these rings will be moved to the right hand.
In Greece, the engagement period could last several years as it demonstrates a keen commitment to the families involved.
The Ohi Day
On October 28th, the Greeks honour the day when the Greek dictator Metaxas refused to allow Italian invaders into the country during World War II. It is the celebration of the heroic OXI (NO): most Greeks hoist a Greek flag on their windows and balconies, while a parade takes place involving school students and the nation’s army.
In Greece, the carnival or Apokries runs over two weeks, beginning from the Sunday of Meat Fare and ends with the first day of the Lent, called Clean Monday (Kathari Deutera). During the eventthose in attendance are encouraged to wear costumes and parties take place throughout the streets and bars, where coloured confetti is thrown at each other. The most well-known Carnival Parade takes place in the city of Patra. The Carnival is said to have originated from pagan customs, and more precisely from festivities worshipping Dionysus, the god of wine and feast.
Name day celebration
Greeks are commonly named after religious saints. An important tradition is that everyone who has a name derived from a saint celebrated by the church celebrates his name on a particular day of the year. On the ‘name day’ of someone, his family and close friends visit him without invitation and offer gifts and well-wishes. The hostess of the house offers pastries, sweets and hors d’oeuvres to the guests. In Greece, name days are more important than birthdays and could also involve music and Greek DJs.
Easter is the most important Greek celebration and even surpasses Christmas festivities. On Good Thursday or Good Saturday, women dye eggs in red and bake buns to share with the family. On Good Friday, the day of mourning, the Epitaphios, the decorated tomb of Christ, is taken out of the church and carried around the town followed by a sombre procession.
At night on Holy Saturday (Megalo Savato), just before midnight, the lights in the church are turned off, symbolizing the darkness of the tomb, while the priest lights a candle from the Eternal Flame, sings the psalm Christos Anesti (meaning Christ has risen) and offers the flame to light the candles of the those attending. The flame is then passed between the congregation, while later bells ring continuously and people throw fireworks.
The Good Saturday Dinner takes place after midnight and consists of tsoureki (Easter cake), mayiritsa, and red eggs. On Easter Sunday, the family eat roastlamb on the spit.
Clean Monday or Lent Monday is the first day of Lent (Saracosti) during which families enjoy a picnic in the countryside and fly kites with their children.
Greek Independence Day
The Greek Independence Day is celebrating the declaration of the Independence War against the Ottomans on March 25th, 1821. Apart from a large national celebration, this day is also a religious celebration dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.
These are just a few reasons for Greeks to celebrate and have been doing so for hundreds of years. Their rich history and culture are one that has influenced other cultures around the world and will continue to do so well into the future.