Local traditions and culture in Greece

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Greece

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    Some Favorites in Greece

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    Some of the favorite dishes in Greece are known practically everywhere in the world because they have "crossed oceans and leaped continents"!

    Moussaka is made up of layers of eggplant and ground meat baked in a tangy sauce.

    Dolmathes is rice and ground meat wrapped in vine [usually grape] leaves.

    Spanakopita is a spinach-and herb pie made with a flaky, buttery dough called phyllo.

    Souvlakia is cubes of lamb or pork and vegetables strung on a long needle and roasted over a fire.

    Soupa augolemono is really chicken soup with lemon flavoring.

    Baklava is a dessert made of pastry and nuts that is coated with honey. Its also made with phyllo. Between many thin layers of dough are ground walnuts, almonds, and a gooey honey sauce.

    Retsina is a common white wine that is mixed with pine resin!

    youzo a strong liqueur that adults enjoy before dinner.

    Melopita is a sweet dessert which is a honey-and-cheese pie.

    Greek Coffee is VERY thick and with dessert it is sweetened.

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    Eating Customs in Greece

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    Greeks eat small meals during the day and eat a substantial meal for the late evening.


    Breakfast is simple and may consist only of strong Greek coffee with a sesame-seed bagel [kolouri] or cheese pie [tiropita].


    Lunch is also light. They might have a cheese pie, spinance pie [spanakopita], fried cheese [saganaki], a souvlaki sandwich, or grape leaves stuffed with rice and onions [dolmades].

    Meals are simple but delicious and they use a mix of fresh foods straight from the farm such as tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives, olive oil, fruit, goat cheese, yogurt, and fresh-baked bread.

    Evening Meal

    Many adults drink ouzo, a strong liqueur before dinner..

    First Course of mezedhes [appetizers] may consist of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, peppers and feta cheese.

    Popular Main Dishes may include souvlaki [grilled meat served on skewers]; loukanika [spiced sausages]; Dolmades [rolled grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice]; Moussaka and pastitio [mixtures of meat and vegetables served as a casserole]; seafood such as octopus, lobster, shrimp, squid, and mullet.

    Typical Greek Bread comes in large, round loaves. Pita is a round flatbread.

    Sweet desserts usually follow Greek meals such as Baklava and Kataifi [combinations of pastry & honey]; orange yogurt cakes, yogurts, custard, or fresh fruit.

    Either red or white Wine is served with the meal.

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    Greek Food Nourishes the Soul

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    In Greek Mythology, it is told that Athena became patron goddess of Athens because she gave the people the olive tree. The olive tree is the symbol of peace and prosperity. For centuries, olives have been pressed into olive oil, and olive oil is still a staple of Greek cooking. Greeks use olive oil instead of butter; they also use it as the oil on their Greek Salads.

    Greek yogurt is thick and creamy and is a part of almost every Greek meal. A plate of tsatziki [a dip made of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic] is usually on the table. It is served at the beginning of a meal.

    A bowl of yogurt that is sweetened with honey and sprinkled with walnuts is also a favorite Greek dessert.

    Lamb is the most common meat, but pork, seafood, chicken, and beef are also available fresh. Swordfish, red mullet, sole, sardines, and mackerel are plentiful as is octopus, shrimp, and mussels.

    The Greek national cheese is Feta that is made from goats' milk. It is white, crumbly, and salty. Greeks use it as an essential ingredient in salads. Traditional Greek salads contain no lettuce; rather, they use tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, feta, and olives. Yum!

    Souvlaki sandwiches are as popular in Greece as hamburgers are in the United States.
    A piece of meat rotates vertically on a rotisserie. The cook slices off strips of meat into a pita and adds tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce.

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    Arts & Crafts Play An Important Role in Greece

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    Both knitting and embroidery are time-honored traditions in Greece. Because of the tourist industry, new markets have been provided for Greeks who work in the leather and pottery crafts.

    We discovered that some of the best examples of Greek crafts come from villagers where the skills are handed down from generation to generation. We saw elegant embroidered cloth that were decorated with floral and geometric designs. The women who created these beautiful items learned the needlework from their mothers and grandmothers. The local agora or marketplace is where the women sell their embroidery.

    In regions where sheep and goats are raised, wool sweaters and wool rugs are made. The thick woven rugs are called flokati. These rugs are soaked in water for three days to soften the wool. In a town called Arachova, the hand-woven and brightly colored and patterned rugs are sold as rugs, as bedspreads, and as wall hangings. I purchased a small one, and it has Athena in full armor on it along with the Greek design as a border.

    We saw city markets filled with stalls selling wood carvings, leather goods (purses, boots, vests), silver metalwork, and clay pottery decorated with ancient designs. The most popular item seemed to be the clay pottery.

    I think that the Greek jewelry [considered as some of the most beautiful in the world] can also be purchased from sidewalk stalls as well as expensive jewelry shops. I purchased a piece of silver jewelry while in Athens.

    While in Greece, you will have no difficulty finding quality arts and crafts to purchase or just to admire.

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    New Greek Words...

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    While in Greece I was introduced to these words:

    kafenion: a Greek coffeehouse. Sitting around the "kafenion" is a village tradition. The "kafenion used to be strictly MALE territory. Men gathered there for hours to talk about the latest news, about politics, & about their work. They usually lamented the changes taking place in the Greek society. Now, both men & women might be seen in a "kafenion. However, old men are still the major patrons. {The younger generation go to "trendier" places & watch television to replace the traditional of the kafenion.

    Apokries is carnival season that begins in February & lasts for 3 weeks before the pre-Easter Lenten season. Greeks dress in fancy costumes, eat, drink, & dance. The most spectacular festivities take place in Patras & in Athen's Plaka.

    Epitaphios: during the Easter season on Good Friday, Greeks carry candles through the streets in the "epitaphios" [a funeral procession for Christ].

    majiritsa is a traditional soup made with lamb, egg, lemon juice, & plenty of dill. Greeks eat majiritsa soup to break their pre-Easter fast.

    Vasilopitta is Basil Cake, & on New Year's Day in Greece [also feast of St. Basil], a coin is baked into the Vasilopitta. Tradition says that whoever gets the slice of cake with the coin in it shall enjoy a year of good luck. We lived upstairs to a Greek Family for 2 years, & each New Year's, we would eat Vasilopitta with them. We never got the piece with the coin.

    My favorite new word from Greece was:
    Gynaikokratia which in villages in some Thracian towns, the people switch roles on January 8. "Gynaikokratia" was the name of an ancient Greek comedy, and the word literally means "Women Rule" Women of the village get to hang out in cafes while the men stay home cooking, cleaning house, & taking care of the children. When night arrives, the men join the women in a celebration. I think that is a ol idea!

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    Easter Tradition

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    Easter is probably the most important holiday in Greece. It's especially important to the Greek Orthodox Christian religion.

    Each year on the Thursday before Easter Sunday, Greeks dye hard-boiled eggs red as an Easter tradition. It symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

    On Easter Sunday, Greek families place these red dyed hard-boiled eggs on their feast tables.. Then, everyone takes an egg and clinks it against everyone's eggs. The person whose egg breaks LAST is believed to have good luck that year.

    I also discovered that the Greeks rub the eggs with a paper towel that is dipped in olive oil after the eggs have been dyed red. The olive oil gives the eggs a shiny look.

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    XENOS: Means Both "Stranger" and "Guest"

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    I was so pleased with the friendliness of the Greek people. They are so gregarious, welcoming, and helpful. Greeks love to communicate. They get together with friends to chat, argue, gossip, and laugh. Their village squares are the gathering spots for families. The kids kick a soccer ball, and the parents sit on benches and chat. Sometimes, later in the evening, someone will take out an accordion and people burst into song; some even dance!

    Men sit at a kafeneionb [coffeehouse] for hours for the price of a cup of strong coffee. It seems to be the center of communication. To an outsider [like me] it seems strange to see friends shout at each other, pound on the tables as they argue about sports or politics. If they are not shouting and laughing, then the men are absorbed in games of backgammon, dominoes, or cards. Women can only enter a kafeneion accompanied by a man. This is not a law, but it's just not done.

    Our tour guide told us that Greeks do not enjoy solitude. The example that she gave is "Greeks do not consider a holiday a chance to get away from it all. Rather, an Athens family will leave the city, park the car at the seashore, and deliberately seek out the most crowded portion of a beach to spread their blanket!"

    Greeks,similar to the Spanish, often celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. They are able to do this because many businesses shut down at 1:30 p.m. to allow employees to go home, eat a large lunch and take a short nap before they return at 5:00 p m. [Many large factories have abandoned the afternoon nap custom and adopted nine-to-five hours.] How sad.

    I could not get over the Greek's amazing acceptance of strangers. Many times, you can be asking a stranger a question, and before you know it, they are inviting you to the family dinner. Just remember that in the Greek language, "xenos" is the word for "stranger", but the same word is also used for "guest"!

    Friendly Town of Delphi
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    Rare Woman Guide With Such Longevity

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    The picture is of our guide in Greece. Her name is Peggy, and she was an excellent guide. She was intelligent, assertive, and quite knowlegable in Greek Mythology.

    What was so remarkable about Peggy is that she had been a guide for 13 years, and that was in 1995. You say, "Big Deal"! Well, if what she says about Greece is true, then it is a big deal. Women seldom get to be in the working world for such a long time.

    Both Jayne and I noticed that In the Greece that we experienced, woman were so much more "in the shadows" than in Italy, USA, France, just to name a few countries.

    The men seemed to spend much of their time socializing, playing cards, smoking, drinking, and making "eyes" at the blonds!

    For instance, in Athens on our free day, Jayne went to a Botanical Garden alone. On two occasions, non-Greek men took her arm and said, "You should not be alone because Greek men like blonds!" Jayne is a blond.

    Women were doing the physical work in lots of places. Maybe we got the wrong idea, but from what Peggy implied, I think we were correct.

    Our Guide, Peggy
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    Another Country, Another Strike

    by deecat Updated Dec 18, 2008

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    For those of you who have read my Italy pages, you know that four times, I have been in the middle of a strike. Greece was no exception.

    We were driving on a main highway from Thessaloniki to Athens when our tour bus stopped behind a long line of traffic. The driver waited and waited and then he got out of the bus and found out that the road was closed because the farmers were striking.

    They were protesting the high taxes. There had been political unrest after the election of a new President. We were delayed for one and a half hours. The traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see. We had to go back to a small village and take another road around the blocked area and through the mountains.

    The picture is of our bus and one of the men on our tour is outside the bus. You can see the traffic behind us.

    Our bus stopped Because of Farmer's Strike
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    Those small shrines

    by Balam Written Aug 19, 2008

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    The miniature churches or shrines next to the roads are memorials for people killed in a car accident, at the same spot where the accident happened. The family of the deceased construct and maintain them . They contain a photo of the deceased, some religious objects and a lit candle or lamp.

    Those small shrines Those small shrines
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    Appropriate Clothes in Monasteries

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Jul 31, 2008

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    Women must wear skirts below the knees though in some monasteries these are provided for women in shorts or slacks. Men's arms must be covered and they must wear long pants.

    Appropriate clothing is required to visit the monasteries. Sleeveless clothing and shorts are prohibited. Skirts and shawls are available at the entrance for those who are deemed to be unacceptably dressed (including guys wearing shorts).

    Appropriate Clothes in Monasteries Appropriate Clothes in Monasteries

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    Say Kalimera with a big smile.

    by Capreae Written Jul 19, 2008

    Learn how to say good morning, hello, help, good evening, and thank you in Greek. Those words and a great big smile will get you anywhere and what you want in Greece. Even in places where no one speaks a word of English, Spanish, or French. People in Greece are very friendly and helpful. I absolutely loved the people everywhere I traveled. From the mainland to the islands everyone is great and friendly.

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  • Movies with or about Greece

    by volopolo Updated Jul 11, 2008

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    Some movies with Greece inside

    James Bond: For you eyes only (1981)
    Meteora and Corfu island

    Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
    Kefalonia island

    Munich (2005)

    Mamma Mia (2008)
    Skopelos island, Skiathos island, Damouchari - Pelion Mountain

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    numbers colours and countries

    by Balam Written Jun 24, 2008

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    In all the following, "e" is read as in "egg" and "th" is read as in "this". The emphasis in pronunciation falls on the syllable which is in underlined script

    ena = one

    thio = two

    tria = three

    tessera = four

    pente = five

    eksi = six

    epta or efta = seven

    okto = eight

    ennia = nine

    theka = ten

    entheka = eleven

    thotheka = twelve

    theka-tria = thirteen

    theka-tessera = 14

    theka-pente = 15

    theka-eksi = 16

    theka-epta = 17

    theka-okto = 18

    theka-ennia = 19

    eikossi = 20

    eikossi-ena = 21
    trianta = 30

    ssaranta = 40

    peninta = 50

    eksinta = 60

    evthominta = 70

    ogthonta = 80

    eneninta = 90

    ekato = 100

    ekaton theka pente = 115

    ekaton peninta tria = 153

    thiakossia = 200

    triakossia = 300

    tetrakossia = 400

    pentakossia = 500

    eksakossia = 600

    eptakossia = 700

    oktakossia = 800

    eniakossia = 900

    hilia = 1000

    ena ekatomirio = one million

    ena thisekatomirio = one billion

    Learn the colours in Greek

    Greek Colours

    aspro, lefko = white

    mavro = black

    kokkino = red

    mple = blue

    kitrino = yellow

    prassino = green

    kafe = brown

    mov = purple

    galazio = light blue


    Alvania = Albania

    Ameriki = USA

    Anglia = England

    Finlanthia = Finland

    Gallia = France

    Iaponia = Japan

    Ispania = Spain

    Italia = Italy

    Kanathas = Canada

    Kina = China

    Norviyia = Norway

    Ollanthia = Holland

    Polonia = Polland

    Rossia = Russia

    Souithia = Sweden

    Thania = Denmark

    Tourkia = Turkey

    Velyio = Belgium

    Voulgaria = Bulgaria

    Yermania = Germany

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    by Balam Written Jun 24, 2008

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    Greeks are known as champion gesture users in the Mediterranean. Their hands, bodies and faces are rarely still and it sometimes seems possible to get the gist of a conversation by watching it from 50 meters away.

    Instead of shaking heads from side to side as we do, they have another indescribable way of saying "No". This is done by raising the entire head in a backwards movement and clicking the tongue. Sometimes these movements are too subtle and quick, and you can't be too sure that he/she's answered at all. You can repeat the question again and again, and find he/she's been saying "No" from the very beginning.

    A slow down movement of the head to one side, slightly closing the eyes as the head is lowered.

    "Come here"
    This gesture is indicated by the wawing of the hand, a kind of pawing of the air with the fingers and the palm downwards, that looks to the non-Greek as though he/she is either waving good-bye, or telling you to move back a few steps.
    This can be confusing, because the further you move back, the more frantic the gesture becomes.

    "I want to tell you something"
    This gesture is done by touching or patting the lower lip with the index finger, and can easily be misunderstood, as it looks as if you are being told to be quiet. This gesture is often performed immediately after the "Come here" gesture - and put together they simply mean "Come here, I want to tell you something".

    "What do you want / what do you mean?"
    With a quizzical expression in his/her eyes, the Greek will shake his/her head from side to side a few times. This normally means that he/she either hasn't understood what you've asked, and is asking you to repeat it, or he/she is asking you what you want.

    "Thank you very much my friend"
    The "Yes" gesture is followed by putting the right hand to the heart. Standing in front of the person, the gesture is of course followed by a verbal statement. But the gesture can also be performed at some distance.

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