Greek Culture: History, Culture, Traditions, and Religion

greek cultureStanding at around the same size as the state of New York, Greece is a country that is rich in history, culture, traditions, and religion.  They’re known for their belief in the Greek Gods, where philosophy was first discovered, the amazing architecture such as the Parthenon, and the creation of the Olympics, just to name a few.  Even though the country has been through a lot of changes throughout history, the people still value Greek culture.

Food

Since the climate in Greece is mostly hot and dry, this means that the people rely heavily on fresh food.  Their diet consists of a lot of vegetables and fruits, and some meats.  As far as meat goes, they eat mostly lamb, pork and chicken.  However, they do not consume as much meat as most other cultures.

Greeks eat a variety of vegetables, but the olive is their staple.  It grows well in their weather, and it has been around in their culture since the Bronze Age.  Today, there are different varieties of olives being grown like the black Kalamata to the Cracked Green olives.  It will also be rare to find a Greek dish that doesn’t contain olive oil.

greek culture - gyrosThe most popular Greek food is the gyro, which is considered a street food snack.  It’s a pita sandwich usually containing seasoned meat, salad, cucumbers, garlic and yogurt.  Some main dishes that commonly eaten are moussaka, which is made with eggplants, minced beef and bechamel crème.  Pastisio is also well-known and is similar to Italian lasagna.  It is made with noodles, tomato sauce, minced beef and onions.

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, Greeks love to drink wine.  There is a huge variety ranging from reds, whites, sweet or dry.  Their most popular alcoholic drink is ouzu, which is considered very strong and can be drank with ice, water, or by itself.

Music

During Ancient Greece, music was considered a gift from the gods.  It was attributed to Hermes with the lyre, Athena with the flute, and Pan with the panpipes.  Music was performed during all sorts of occasions such as weddings, religious ceremonies, festivals, parties, and military activities.  It was also used during dramatic performances held in theaters such as plays and recitals.

With the fall of Ancient Greece, the music developed a more eastern sound.  Instruments such as the lira, the bagpipe, shawm, drum, tambourine and violin were all used in Greek fold songs.  In the 19th century, music in Greece was influenced with opera compositions by composers such as Nikolaos Mantzaros and Spyros Samaras.  There would be other styles of music adopted throughout this time, such as rebetiko and entekhno.

Today, the mainstream music in Greece is called modern laiko, or laiko-pop.  It originated from laiko, which was very popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  It is often played on the radio and at dance clubs throughout the country.

Religion

According to the history of Orthodoxy,  Saint Paul was the first to come into Greece to preach Christianity, back in 49 AD.  As of today, about 98% of the country’s population is Christian Orthodox.  They are considered, however, to be more free and have less restrictions than other denominations of Christianity.  For example, a priest in Greece can marry someone.  Following a divorce, Greeks can remarry in church.

Another difference is that Greeks only attend church occasionally, not weekly.  Their faith is still as deep and strong as any other Christian, but they also believe in the “Greek spirit”, which is represented by independence and freedom.

Greek cultureClothing / Fashion

Ancient Greeks usually wore simple garments that hung over their bodies.  The peplos was a sleeveless, one-piece fabric with a hole cut out for the head.  The chiton was very similar to the peplos except it had sleeves for the arms.  They were both usually made of wool since sheep farming was widespread and it helped keep them warm during the cold winters.

Greeks today only wear traditional costumes for festivals and national holidays.  The type they wear varies from the mainland and the islands, but still keep some elements from the ancient garments.

Traditions / Customs

Carnival In CyprusName Day Celebration- Since most Greeks are named after a religious saint, their name is celebrated by the church on a given day of the year.  Friends and family will visit the person, without invitation, and offer gifts or blessings.  This tradition is considered more important to a person than their birthday.

Carnival – Known as “Apokries”, this 2 week festival begins on Sunday of Meat Fare and ends on the last day of Lent, known as Clean Monday.  People are dressed in costumes and celebrate all throughout the city, including bars, restaurants, and on the streets.  Since it is right before Lent, people tend to feast a lot more than they normally would.  The most famous Carnival Parade occurs in the city of Patra.

Easter- Easter is biggest and most important celebration for the Greeks.  On Good Friday, the tomb of Christ is decorated with flowers and is carried around the village.  On Holy Saturday, everyone dresses up and attends church where a ceremony is held.  The Good Saturday Dinner takes place just after midnight and the meal consists of tsoureki and mayiritsa.

Greek Independence Day – In 1821, the Greeks rose up against the Ottoman Empire, which had occupied the country for almost 400 years.  This holiday is celebrated on March 25, consisting of parades, parties and feasting.  This day is also a religious celebration, dedicated to the Annunciation of Virgin Mary.

Greek History And Culture

greek culture - SantoriniIf you would like to learn more about Greece such as their literature, history, and philosophy, this course called Lectures On Greek History and Culture may intrigue you.  And if you ever wanted to learn about New Testament Greek, try this course on this language as well.