Greece is one of the oldest countries in Europe and the world. The country has evolved over thousands of years, starting in Minoan and later in Mycenaean Greece. The country influenced the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and many more cultures and countries. How much do you know about Greek culture facts?
Widely considered the cradle of Western culture and democracy, Greece has a rich culture, tradition, and heritage. Customs have been passed down from one generation to another.
Modern democracies owe a debt to Greek beliefs in government by the people, equality under the law, trial by jury, and many more. As one of the ancient civilizations, classical Greece set the foundations for modern countries.
With that in mind, here are some Greek cultural facts to better understand the country. Many of these customs and traditions originated in Ancient Greece. And while the ancient Greek culture and Hellenistic religion are long gone, some manners remain.
The tradition of name days exists in many Eastern Europe and Western Europe countries. Yet, in Greece, the name day is more respected and celebrated.
The name day celebration is sometimes more important than a birthday. For adults, it applies even more. It is customary to call and congratulate people on their name day.
First day of the Month
Kalo Mina or good month is a traditional greeting you will hear if you live in Greece. It is often on the first day of the month. Each first day of the month symbolizes a new beginning. Greek people greet each other this way to wish good things for the month ahead.
This is one of the biggest and most notorious superstitions in Greece. The country shares this superstition with Turkey and some other places.
It is a belief that the evil eye is a curse cast by an envious person. To protect themselves from it, Greeks wear a charm. You have probably seen the famous blue piece of glass with an eye painted on it.
Anyone who has seen the movie Big Fat Greek Wedding knows the ritual of spitting. Greeks believe that spitting chases the devil and evil away.
They do not actually spit. They do say “ftou, ftou, ftou” three times. It is common to spit when someone mentions a bad piece of news or a death.
We talked about the name day before. Now, let’s talk about the tradition of name-giving. Names are important in Greece, and some are very common.
It comes from an ancient tradition that ensured the continuation of a name. The firstborn is named after a parent. The boy takes the name of his paternal grandfather, while the girl the name of her maternal grandmother.
The first child is often named after the father’s parents, regardless if it is a boy or a girl. This is why cousins might have the same name.
Saint Day Celebration
Greek celebrate saint days all year round. They are celebrated in a chapel or a church. You can see them in rural settings, but in big cities as well.
The Ohi Day
Greeks celebrate Ohi Day on October 28th. It is the day when the Greek dictator Metaxas refused to let the Italians invade the country during World War II.
Ohi means “No’ in the Greek language, and it is the celebration of the heroic refusal. On this day, most Greeks put a Greek flag on their windows and balconies.
This is another modern Greek tradition you might have seen in movies or TV shows. The origins are obscure, and it is associated with the expression of joy and happiness.
It was banned in 1969. The tradition was meant to show appreciation for the music played at a party. So, when they banned it, people replaced it with throwing flowers at the feet of the singer or each other in live music clubs.
This is a folk Christmas tradition in Greece. According to legends and Greek mythology, hobgoblins are short, ugly creatures with many deformities. They live underground all year round. But from Christmas until the Epiphany day on January 6th, they come up to the world and tease people with pranks.
On Epiphany Day, the priest of the village goes from one Greek house to another to sprinkle blessed water and chase the hobgoblins underground.
Unlike the rest of the world, Greeks do not decorate a Christmas tree. They decorate a Christmas boat. The Christmas tree tradition was celebrated for the first time when Bavarian King Otto celebrated his first Christmas on the throne of Greece in 1833.
In Greece, the boat was decorated in honor of sailors returning home to their families around Christmas.
This is another Greek tradition and modern Greek celebration. Greeks celebrate spring with their tradition of martis. It is a white and red bracelet made of thread. Greek people wear it during the whole month of March.
According to Greek tradition, white symbolizes purity while red symbolizes passion and life. Back in ancient Greece, this bracelet was made to protect the person from disease during the spring sun.
Tuesday the 13th
Many countries around the world consider Friday the 13th as a day of bad luck and bad omen. Well, in Greece, that day is Tuesday the 13th. The date is directly linked with the fall of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) on that day, back in 1204.
Taking Interest In Politics
In the Hellenic republic, politics played a huge role. Nowadays, people take interest in politics seriously. But that tradition stems from the ancient Greek civilization. Classical Greece saw many wars, monarchies, and more rise and fall due to politics.
The modern Olympic Games started on April 6, 1895, nearly 1,500 years after the lost tradition of the ancient Greek civilization. Talking about ancient history, the games started in ancient Athens. Greeks loved to watch and play games. They were a huge part of the Ancient Greek culture.
Games were usually held in big and important cities like Athens and Sparta.
You can also find it as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Green Monday, or Monday of Lent. It is the first day of Great Lent throughout Eastern Christianity countries.
The moveable feast falls on the 6th Monday before Palm Sunday, which begins the Holy Week preceding Pascha Sunday.
This is a Greek wedding tradition. The word krevarti means bed. The bride-to-be and her single friends come together to decorate the couple’s future marriage bed with fresh bedding and decorations.
They throw gifts, money, and rice on it. Sometimes they even place small children in the bed. The ritual promotes prosperity and fertility for the couple.
In Greece, it is customary to get engaged before getting married. The man has to ask for the hand of the woman he wants to marry from her father and close family.
The two families then give presents to the bride and groom and exchange wedding rings. The rings are worn on the left hand before the wedding. After the wedding, the bride and groom put the rings on their right hand.
The engagement period can last for years.
Let’s finish off our list of Greek culture interesting facts with a fun tradition and concept. When two people say the same thing together at the same time, they immediately say “piase kokkino”, which translates to touch red. Both have to touch any red item they can find around.
Why is this? Well, because Greeks believe that saying the same thing is an omen and that the two people will get into a fight or an argument.