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Modern Greek (1453-)Culture → Greek customs and traditions

Greek customs and traditions are an essential part of Greek culture. They reflect the long and rich history of Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Greek way of life. In this lesson, we will explore some of the most prominent Greek customs and traditions that are still celebrated today.

After mastering this lesson, these related pages might interest you: Best Greek Street Food & Narcissism.

Greek Naming Customs[edit | edit source]

Greek naming traditions are unique and differ from those in many other parts of the world. Greeks are named after their grandparents, parents, or other family members. Traditionally, the first-born child is named after their paternal grandparent, the second-born after their maternal grandparent, and the third-born after their own parent.

This tradition ensures that family names are perpetuated and that the memory of ancestors is preserved. If there are no suitable family names to pass down, parents may choose a name from Greek history or mythology.

In addition, Greeks celebrate "name days." Each name in the Greek Orthodox calendar has its own corresponding holiday. People named after a particular saint celebrate their name day on that saint's feast day. For example, people named Maria celebrate their name day on August 15th, which is the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Greek Wedding Customs[edit | edit source]

Greek wedding customs are known for their rich symbolism and traditions that have been passed down for generations. For example, the koumbaros is the best man in the wedding party, and he accompanies the groom throughout the wedding ceremony. The koumbara is the maid of honor, and she accompanies the bride.

The Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony is divided into three parts: the engagement ceremony, the wedding ceremony, and the reception. The wedding ceremony takes place in a church, and the couple is crowned with wreaths of flowers. The wreaths symbolize the couple's unity as they become king and queen of their own kingdom, which is their home and family.

The wedding reception is a big celebration that often lasts until dawn. Guests dance to traditional Greek music, and a lot of food and drink is consumed. The bride and groom dance together for the first time as a married couple, while guests throw money at them as a symbol of good luck.

Greek Easter Customs[edit | edit source]

Easter is the most important religious holiday in Greece, and Greek Easter customs and traditions are steeped in symbolism. Greek Orthodox Easter usually falls on a different date than Western Easter because it follows the lunar calendar.

During the week leading up to Easter Sunday, Greeks take part in numerous ceremonies and traditions. On Holy Thursday, they dye boiled eggs red to symbolize the blood of Christ. On Good Friday, they attend the church service and follow the procession that mourns Christ's death. On Easter Sunday, Greeks roast a whole lamb on a spit and hold a feast with their family and friends.

Greek Food and Drink Customs[edit | edit source]

Greek cuisine is famous for its healthy and flavorful dishes made with fresh ingredients. Greek food and drink customs are deeply rooted in Greek culture and history. Greeks love to share food and drink with friends and family, and meze (small plate dishes) and ouzo (Greek liquor) are staples in Greek social gatherings.

Greek coffee is another significant aspect of Greek food and drink customs. Greeks drink their coffee slowly, savoring every sip while sharing the moment with others. An important aspect of Greek coffee is the foam that forms on top of the coffee, which is said to reflect a person's character. Greeks love to read fortune in coffee grains, a tradition called tasseography.

Greek Festivals and Holidays[edit | edit source]

Greeks are known for their festive spirit and love to celebrate. Greek festivals and holidays are full of music, dance, and, of course, food. In addition to Easter, some of the other major Greek holidays and festivals include:

  • Carnival (Apokries): A period of feasting and celebration that takes place between Christmas and Lent.
  • Independence Day (March 25th): Celebrates Greece's independence from Ottoman rule in 1821.
  • The Feast of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost): Celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
  • The Assumption of the Virgin Mary (August 15th): Celebrates the end of the Virgin Mary's earthly life.

Greek festivals usually involve parades, traditional dress, and local customs. Greeks also celebrate the start of each new year with Vasilopita, a sweet bread or cake that is golden brown in color and shaped like a crown. A coin is hidden inside the bread, and the person who finds it is said to have good luck throughout the year.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Greek customs and traditions are an integral part of Greek culture, and they continue to be celebrated with great enthusiasm and pride today. From naming traditions to wedding customs, festivals, and holidays, Greeks use these traditions to connect with their past, honor their heritage, and celebrate life.

Learning about Greek customs and traditions allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the Greek way of life and the rich history of Greece.

Sources[edit | edit source]

Congratulations on finishing this lesson! Explore these related pages to keep learning: Greek history & History of Astronomy.

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