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Greek traditions. Many of the Greek customs and traditions have their roots either in the Greek Christian Ο rthodox religion or in ancient Greece. . Name day celebration.

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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
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, ‘ChroniaPolla’ (long life to you, live many years, etc…) as well as small presents.
  • The hostess of the house offers pastries, sweets and hors d’oeuvres to the guests.In Greece, name days are more important than birthdays.
marriage
Marriage

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 (takoufeta) 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.

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Dowry

Exchanging the Stephana

Mpomponiera with almond candies

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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 lamentations.
  • 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.
christmas and new year customs
Christmas and New Year customs

Children sing carols (kalanda) from house to house

Boat vs tree

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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 Epiphany, the day Christ was baptized
  • The Greek Festival of Epiphany, Agia Theofania, or Fotaor '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 theecclesiastical 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
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 complexion.
  • 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.
carnival
Carnival

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” (KathariDeutera). 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
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.
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Polytechnio 17th November 1973

the students’ rise against the Junta

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.

Oxi Day

28th October 1940