Greece is a country of a great interests and diverse cultures, influenced by its location, at the junction between the East and the West and by the many occupations endured by the Greek people throughout history.
Traditions in Greece and Greek Islands are either of a religious character or coming from paganism. Furthermore, most of the traditions and festivals still followed and celebrated today are religious. That is why so many panygiria are organized in the country, which are actually religious celebrations of saints followed by traditional music and dance in the square of the village.
The 97% of the Greeks are Christians Orthodox. The rest of the population are Muslims, Roman Catholics and Jewish. Greece and Russia are the only countries to have such a big proportion of Christians Orthodox.
Greek Traditions related with the religion:
Apokries: There is a main period of feasting that covers the 40 days before Easter week , the Sarakosti (the name derives from the number 40, Saranta). This feast starts at the end of the four week Greek Carnival time (Apokries) which begins around the middle of March on Clear Monday (Kathari Deftera). Clear Monday is the first Monday that follows the 4 weeks of Apokria. Even though the Greeks will not feast for the next 40 days, on this particular day, the Kathari Deftera, they will go to the countryside to celebrate with special feast food (Vegetables, Pickles, taramosalata, grilled octopus, lots of wine and the special flat bread made specially for this day (the Lagana). A part of the tradition beloved by children is kite flying. As a child myself I used to make my own kite for that day using newspaper, string and straws. Today the children by plastic ready-made kites from the shops but the enjoyment and the tradition is still very much alive.
Klydonas: The Feast of Klydonas and the jumping over fire during St John’s celebration at the end of June is one of the traditions that has slowly disappeared. The reason why this is so is not surprising. As the cities got bigger and more crowded there was no longer anywhere that one could safely pile up logs and make a fire in the neighbourhood streets. 40 years ago though this was an exciting event that could be experienced in nearly every neighbourhood. A quaint tradition that happened the day before this Feast of Klydonas was for young unmarried girls to try and fish out of a jar of water a ring or coin that had been previously placed there. The Jar would be placed on the roof of buildings and covered by a white cloth and, the next evening, all the neighbours would gather at the doorstep of a house for the opening of the jar with the (Amilito Nero) the silent water. The young girls would fish around in the jar without being able to see deep into its contents, then as one was picking out of the jar a ring or a coin, an older woman would recite poems from the popular Almanac Calendar. These poems were a kind of prophecy for the girls and would ensure that they would find their true love to marry in the near future. This ceremony was followed with the jumping over the fire that had been lit in the middle of the street.
Greek music is of unbelievable diversity due to the creative Greek assimilation of different influences of the Eastern and Western culture of Asia and Europe. Music in Greece has a long history dating from the ancient times.
In general, the Greeks are particularly proud of their culture and speak of their country with an intense passion, feeling that their Greek culture is a definition of their national and ethnic belonging. Traditions, religion, music, language, food and wines are the major composites of the Greece culture and constitute the base for those who wish to visit the country.
Greece Food & Wine
Greek cuisine is famous for its good quality products and the amazing taste of its food and wines. Some dishes are the same everywhere in Greece, whereas some others are local culinary specialties. The same dishes can be cooked differently or with different ingredients depending on the region.
Greek Marriage: The Marriage traditions in Greece vary slightly from place to place. In the islands you will find a more intensive and colourful tradition going on. In the Dodecanese, for example, the celebration starts a couple of days before when relatives and friends will go to the new house of the couple “to make the marriage bed”. This is like the kitchen party found in some Western countries or similar to adding to the new couples dowry. However, instead of gifts for the house, money (and sometime serious money) inside envelopes is given. Usually the couple’s fathers will set the ball rolling by throwing money on the marriage bed as a gift to the new couple. Depending on their financial status, the amounts of money the fathers throw can sometimes be very large indeed. This is followed by friends and relatives who will add to this their envelope with money, afterwards a baby will be placed on the bed in order to bring prosperity and fertility to the couple. On the day of the wedding, from early in the afternoon, the two houses of the bride and groom’s families will be very busy. At the bride’s house, the bride’s girlfriends will dress her and make her beautiful for the marriage ceremony, whilst at the house of the groom the main event of the preparations will be in full swing. As his friends are dressing him and getting him ready, the gathering of friends and family of the groom sing the marital song. In the meanwhile visitors, friends and relatives have a great drinking party in the main lounge or on the veranda if it is good weather. The party is usually accompanied by live music played by local musicians. A half hour before the ceremony the gathering will go to the church. Traditionally musicians will follow as well, playing wedding songs, and this can still be seen – especially on the islands of Greece. At the gate of the church, the groom will wait for the bride and when she comes the ceremony will continue with a small liturgy, the exchanging of vows and the dance of Hisais. The Priest and the bride and groom must walk 3 times around the altar whilst the priest sings the Hisaie dance. The marriage ceremony is followed by a huge party usually held at a big restaurant with music and dancing. Traditionally, the best man or best woman of the bride and groom will be the Godfather or Godmother of the first child born to the couple.