Greek traditions and customs

Greek traditions
Many of the Greek customs and traditions have their roots either
in the Greek Christian Οrthodox religion or in ancient Greece.
Name day celebration
 According to tradition, children are named after their grandparents, but until a baby is
baptized, its name is not used. A person's Name Day is considered more important than the
same person's Birthday and it is always celebrated in Greece.
 Most of the Greeks owe their names to a religious saint. According to Greek Orthodox
tradition, every day of the year is dedicated to a Christian saint or martyr. A very important
Greek tradition that takes place in Greece is that everyone who has a name coming from a
saint celebrated by the church celebrates his name on a given day of the year.
 On the “name day” of someone, his friends and family visit him without invitation and
offer their wishes, ‘Chronia Polla’ (long life to you, live many years, etc…) as well as small
 The hostess of the house offers pastries, sweets and hors d’oeuvres to the guests.
In Greece, name days are more important than birthdays.
While similar to some cultures, there are a number of differences in Greek wedding traditions. What are some of the
more popular Greek wedding traditions?
Dowry. Although the idea of a dowry may seem obsolete to some people, it is still a Greek tradition. The mother of
the bride usually spends years collecting a variety of things from hand made embroideries, sheets. towels and
other household items for her daughter’s marriage. The dowry enables the bride to set up housekeeping. The
father of the bride offers a furnished home to his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift. Today, in Athens
and other big cities, the bride doesn’t have a dowry anymore.
Crowns. During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom are adorned with crowns (stephana) that are connected
by a single strand of ribbon. This signifies the union of the couple as well as indicates the pair’s “rule” over their
household. During the wedding ceremony, the best men and best woman (koumbaros and koumbara) give the
wedding rings to the priest and cross the crowns (stephana) over each other three times and then place them on
the couple’s heads. During the Isaiah dance (once the priest has declared them married), the guests throw rice
and almond candy wrapped with tough white sugar (ta koufeta) to the new couple.
Gifts. Giving newlyweds gifts during the reception is a common occurrence in most cultures. Greek traditions also
allow for something slightly different. A person attending a Greek wedding reception should not be surprised to
see guests pinning items such as money to the bride’s gown.
Exchanging the Stephana
Mpomponiera with almond candies
 Greek death related traditions have their roots in customs practiced in ancient
Greece. Women in Greece have historically functioned as the keepers of the
home, family, birth, and death.
 In many villages women actually dress, bathe and prepare the bodies of close
relatives for burial. Furthermore, the body is displayed in the home prior to
the funeral, and female friends and relatives sing ritual mirologia or
 Upon the death of a family member, further duties of Greek women include
preparation and distribution of important death-related foods such as kollyva
and paximadia, as well as the traditional dinner following a Greek funeral.
 Following the death of a close family member,, women are expected to wear
black for up to one year to show respect for the loss. On the other hand, men
need only wear a black arm band for up to forty days following the death of a
loved one.
Death-related customs and the duties of women
Christmas and New Year customs
Children sing carols (kalanda) from house to house
Boat vs tree
 The pothariko custom. Many people pay particular mind to the good/bad omen regarding who will
first enter their home in the new year ( pothariko). On New Year's Eve they will ask a close friend or
relative, whom they consider lucky, to be the first to come into their house the following day. Often,
a child is preferred for this special practice because children are considered innocent and their hearts
free of malice and envy.
 The pomegranate custom. Exactly when the year changes, people throw and break a pomegranate at
their doorstep and enter the house with their right foot for good luck. Pomegranates are symbols of
prosperity, fertility and good luck.
 The Vassilopita. The pie that is prepared for the coming of the New Year, Vassilopita, includes a
golden coin, witch according to tradition, will bring good luck to the one that finds it. And don’t
complain if your coin is not gold, but a simple 10cents wrapped in tinfoil.
the Epiphany, the day Christ was baptized
 The Greek Festival of Epiphany, Agia Theofania, or Fota or 'The Blessing of the
Waters', is held on January 6.
 This is the special occasion when many daring young Greek men brave the chilly
waters to dive for the cross after it has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the
water. For his gallantry, the first man who recovers the cross is said to have good
luck throughout the coming year. The day long festival also features the blessing of
small boats and ships, and later on affords entertainment, music, dancing and food
to all those present.
 The evil spirits of kalikantzari - half-animal, half-human monsters- are
banished with the ecclesiastical purification of the Waters. Some of the hallowed
water is put into vessels, and with these the priests sometimes make a round of the
village, or town sprinkling the people and their houses.
A superstition with pagan roots
 On March 1st, it is customary for mothers or teachers at school to braid bracelets for the children.
These bracelets are called ‘Martis’. The word derives from the Greek word Martios, which is the
month of March. It is made from embroidery floss. Depending on which part of Greece you are
from, there are several variations of this tradition.
 In some places in Greece, people make the bracelets out of any color string they want. The bracelets
are worn until the Midnight Mass of the Greek Orthodox Easter. Then they cut them off of our
wrists and tie them to the spit of the lamb that they will roast the other day on bonfires. Parents or
grandparents always tell, "See, your bracelets will burn up and disappear just like our sins do because
of Christ's Resurrection’.
 In central Greece the children make their bracelets using only red and white, to symbolize the blood
of Christ's crucifixion and His Resurrection. Also, they wear these bracelets so that the sun of early
spring doesn’t burn their cheeks. The bracelet is red and white, symbolic of rosy cheeks yet a white
 In other areas of Greece they do not tie their bracelets to the spit of the lamb but leave them outside
for the swallows to build their nests. Children in kindergartens would sometimes pack a picnic lunch
and go fly kites at the park and make their bracelets there. It is a lot of fun and it makes it feel like a
sort of celebration. Any way you celebrate it, it is a fun tradition that children look forward to.
In Greece, Carnival is called “Apokries”; it consists of two weeks of feast,
beginning from the Sunday of Meat Fare and ends with the start of Lent, called
“Clean Monday” (Kathari Deutera). Everyone is costumed and parties in the
streets and bars, throwing coloured confetti to each other. The most famous
Carnival parade takes place in the city of Patra, where everybody dances and
drinks all night and day.
This custom is believed to come from paganism, and more precisely from the old
festivities worshiping Dionysus, the god of wine and feast.
The national feast days
 Anniversary 0f ‘Oxi Day’, 28 October, (No Day), commemorating the occasion when Greek leaders
refused to Mussolini's request to allow Italian troops to come into Greece at the beginning of WW II
in 1940. Most of the Greeks put a Greek flag on their windows and a march is organized by schools,
where the students wear a blue and white uniform and hold the flag.
 Anniversary 0f Independence Day (25 March), when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of
revolt against the Ottomans near Kalavryta in 1821; March 25 is both a national (revolution against
the Ottomans) and religious holiday (Annunciation: Angel Gabriel announced Mary the incarnation
of Christ.). March 25 is the name day for Vangelis or Evangelos and Vangelio or Evangelia or Eva.
There is a school flag parade in every town and village and a big armed forces parade in Athens.
 November 17, Day of the student rise against the Junta of 1974. On November 14th, students locked
themselves in the Polytechnic School of Athens and protested for the Junta. Three days later, a tank
invaded the School and killed many of them.
 Labor Day (1 May), a time for picnics and excursions to the country.
Polytechnio 17th November 1973
the students’ rise against the Junta
Oxi Day
28th October 1940
On March 25, 1821 the bishop Germanos of Patras raised
the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra in Peloponnese
and one more revolution started against the Turks.