Traditions


One of the most important elements of the Greek culture is the traditions and customs of Greece. The majority of the local traditions are religious varying in each region and they are celebrated all over the country. The most important traditions, which are still honored in the Greek culture, are listed below.

SUPERSTITIONS

Black Cat: It is believed that if someone sees a black cat he would have bad luck for the day as the black cat symbolizes magic.

Evil Eye: One of the most well known customs of Greece is the evil eye coming from the envy and jealousy of someone else (matiasma). A person caught with the evil eye is yawning and usually feels bad physically and psychologically, and it is the time when xematiasma (the person who drives off the evil eye) tells a special pray for the person in pain from the effects of the evil eye. Most Greeks, who believe in the evil eye, wear a little charm with a blue bead and an eye. (The story behind xematiasma: The pray of xematiama can only be learned on Good Friday from a man, otherwise the pray will not work!)

Piase Kokkino (Touch Red): The expression piase kokkino is used when two people say the same thing and they have to touch a red thing, as it is a bad omen that they will get into a fight if they don’t touch something red.

Spiting: It is usual for Greeks to spit three times saying ftou ftou ftou, if they make a compliment or they hear bad news. This symbolized the use of the Holy Trinity to defend and prevent him against the evil eye.

Tuesday the 13th: In Greece, it is believed that the unluckiest day is Tuesday the 13th. Tuesday is believed to be the unluckiest day owing to the fact that the city of Constantinople was besieged from the Ottomans on Tuesday the 29th of May of 1453, and the sum of the year that Constantinople fell is 13 (1+4+5+3=13).  Another explanation is that the Crusaders conquered Constantinople on Tuesday the 13th of 1204.  It is generally believed that number 13 is accursed as it is spoiling the perfection of the number 12 showed from the 12 Olympian Gods, 12 months, 12 hours of day and 12 hours of the night and 12 zodiac signs. Moreover, there were 13 people on the Last Supper, Jesus and 12 apostles, including Judas who betrayed him while the 13th chapter of the Revelation focus on the Antichrist and the creation of the Devil.

TRADITIONS

Carnival: The Carnival period of Greece, which is called Apokries, is a two-week festival starting from the Sunday of Meat Fare until the first day of the Lent, called Clean Monday. A series of carnivals take place around Greece where local traditions and customs revive. It is believed that this custom comes from paganism and the festivities worshiping Dionysus, the God of Feast and Wine.

Clean Monday: Clean Monday is the first day of the Lent, the day when the Carnival ends. According to Christianity, Clean Monday is so called because Christians ‘clean’ their body physically from food and spiritually by starting a more intense operational life. It is a fasting day and a holiday day for Christianity. Moreover, people fly a kite as a symbol that human was made to ‘fly’ spiritually according to Christianity.

Easter: Easter is one of the most important celebrations of Orthodoxy. On Good Thursday, women dye eggs in red in the morning, symbolizing the blood and sacrifice of the Christ, and decorate the tomb of the Christ with flowers in the church. On Good Friday, the mourning day, the tomb of the Christ with its icon (Epitafios) is carried around the village followed from a procession.  At the night of Good Sunday, everybody goes to the church for the ceremony; all the lights turn off at midnight, the time when the priest lights a candle with the Eternal Flame from Jerusalem, singing the psalm Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) and people light their candles passing the flame one to another while fireworks are thrown with the belling ringing continuously, followed from the traditional dinner after midnight. On Easter Sunday, families are gathered together and roast the lamb on the spit and crack the red eggs, symbolizing the sealed tomb of the Christ where Life is hidden, and the standard clicking symbolizes the Resurrection. (The story behind the lamb: The lamb symbolizes Jesus Christ because He has been associated as the lamb of God who will take the sins of the world on his back from John the Baptist.)

Engagement: A local custom in Greece is to get engaged before getting married. Traditionally, the man has to ask the permission to marry his beloved one from the father of the woman and her family.

Greek Independence Day : Every year, the Independence Day of Greece is celebrated for the declaration of the War of Independence against the Ottomans on the 25th of March of 1821.

Name Day Celebration: An important celebrative tradition of Greece is the name day of the Greeks, who are named after a religious saint owing to their religion of Greek Orthodox Christianity.

The Assumption of Virgin Mary: One of the biggest celebrations of the Orthodoxy is the celebration of the Assumption of Virgin Mary on 15th of August which is celebrated every year throughout Greece with festivals and revivals of old customs!

The Flower Wreath of May: The first day of May is the largest celebration of spring symbolizing the rebirth of nature! On that day, people create a flower wreath!

The Ohi Day: Every year, the Ohi (No) Day is celebrated for the day that the Greek Dictator Ioannis Metaxas refused to let the Italians to invade to Greece during the Second World War. The majority of Greeks put a flag of Greece on their balconies and a parade takes place from the school students and the army.

The Ship of Christmas: Greece has a special Christmas custom, as a country dominated from the sea. The decoration of a ship on Christmas is a traditional Greek tradition of old times, symbolizing the new ‘ride’ of human in life after the birth of Christ. However, the tradition tends to disappear replacing it from the fir tree as it is interwoven with unpleasant memories of the war period, and as a vow of seafarers in times of distress, and it could not symbolize family gatherings.

The Wristband of March: Every March, Greeks make a wristband from white and red thread called Martis, which is worn from the 1st until the 31st of March. According to tradition, Martis is worn from children in order to protect their faces from the first sun of the spring! At the end of March, the children have to take off the wristband and hang it from a rose tree, so that swallows, as migratory birds, will use it in order to fasten their new nests!

Tsiknopemti Tradition: Tsiknopemti is the Thursday of the Carnival period of Greece, which marks the beginning of the last weekend of the Lent period. On that day, everybody eats meat as derived from the word tsikna referring to the smell of cooked meat!