Simply Greek - Cultures and Traditions of Civilization's Birthplace (2022)

When you think of Greece, what comes to mind? The rise of democracy? The Olympic Games, ancient history and philosophy, Minotaurs and mythology? Perhaps you think of magnificent temples, the clear waters of the Aegean Sea, sandy beaches, mountain villages, or small windy roads blocked by sheep and goats. Greece is also known as the birthplace of Western civilization. As a Global Volunteer, you have the opportunity to learn more about the people and culture of this fascinating country which gave rise to much of the world’s daily life.

Filotimo: the Greek word that has no translation.

Even the Greeks themselves have trouble agreeing on a single definition of this word. Filotimo describes a complex array of values, all held dearly in Greek culture, and can’t be accurately translated into English. It’s a core value that Greeks live by, which makes them “stand out” from the rest of the world as far as culture and hospitality go. Filotimo encompasses dignity, pride, and honor as well as the ideal actions and behaviors, hospitality, trust, and bonds between each other. When children display unconditional love and respect towards others, they are said to be displaying filotimo. It extends to include appreciation and admiration for ancestors and heritage.

Greek Weddings: the ultimate gathering of family.

Greeks, as a culture, are extremely family-orientated. Everything revolves around the family. Everyone is seen to be related to everyone else, and so celebrations such as weddings and baptisms can result in a guest list of over 1,000 people! When you’re invited to a wedding, your immediate family is invited, too — children included. A typical wedding ceremony begins between 6 and 8 p.m. with a religious service conducted by a Greek Orthodox priest followed by the Greekglenti(party) with live music and an abundance of Greek specialties such as lamb, pork, spaghetti, rice, tzatziki, salads, and wine. Everybody dances, from the oldest grandpa or grandma, right down to the youngest, who can barely walk. It seems Greeks were born with a passion for dancing. Don’t be surprised to see the priest on the dance floor, too!

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Greek Baptisms: the christening of a new life.

One of the most important religious ceremonies in the Greek Orthodox Church is baptism, the day a child officially becomes a Christian. Greek children are baptized between the ages of 18 months and three years. Parents choose godparents who are usually good friends or, on occasion, family members. Godparents are responsible for purchasing the items used by the priest during the ceremony: a white towel, soap, candles, olive oil, scissors, a set of new clothing, a hat, shoes, and a gold cross and chain. The toddlers are submerged completely in the font three times and signed with a cross on the forehead with holy water. After the child has been dried and then clothed in their new garments including the cross and chain, everyone gathers for the baptismal celebration, which includes live music, food, dancing, and wine. Guests receivemartyrika(small crosses attached to ribbon and pinned to the guests’ clothes) as well as koufeta(candy-coated almonds) to thank them for being part of the family’s special day. If you’re a guest at baptism, it’s tradition to give money, baby-related gifts like clothes and toys, or religious gifts such as icons and crosses.

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Name Days: celebrating ancestry.

Name day celebrations are more common than birthdays in Greece. Throughout the year, the Greek Orthodox Church dedicates certain days of the year to celebrate its saints or martyrs. Most Greeks are named after a saint or martyr, so, on the designated saint’s day, if you’re named after that same saint, you’ll celebrate that day, inviting family and friends to celebrate with you. But how do Greeks choose names for their children? Tradition has it that children are, more commonly than not, named after their grandfathers or grandmothers.

Military Service: mandatory for Greek men.

Between the ages of 18 to 24, all Greek men must serve a minimum of 12 months in the military. They have the option to either serve after graduating from high school before they move on to study at a university or after the completion of their college degree. The penalty for not serving is imprisonment. The first six weeks of military service is basic training ending with a “swearing of the oath” ceremony in the presence of families and friends.

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Socializing: the Greek way of life.

Much of Greek life is lived outside of the house. Socializing with friends is central to life in the community. For instance, going out for a coffee is a daily ritual for Greeks, both young and old. The younger generation enjoys coffee and pastries in the more modern cafés, while the older generation prefers thekafeneio — old traditional cafés which have existed for decades and continue to be the meeting point for elderly men. Kafeneiosare in abundance throughout Greece, in every village and town, and while everyone is welcome and treated courteously, it remains a place mainly for men. They’re places where they spend their mornings chatting, reading the newspaper, playing cards or backgammon, discussing politics, and drinking raki (homemade brew).

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The Greek Welcome: the epitome of hospitality.

Unlike most Western cultures, you don’t need an invitation to drop in on a Greek friend or family member at their home. Greek homes are open 24/7 and offer the utmost hospitality. As soon as your feet enter the door, you’ll be invited to sit down and offered something to eat and drink, no matter the time. As a host, it’s expected that your visitors will invite their friends to join them at your house. Hospitality is highly prized. For this reason, every home has something hidden in the cupboard just waiting for that unexpected visitor. If you’ve been invited to dinner, make sure you go with an appetite. More likely than not, you’ll be offered at least four different courses, if not more!

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Easter in Greece: the most important holiday.

Easter for the Eastern Orthodox Church begins onKathara Deftera(Clean Monday). This is the beginning of lent when many fast from meat for 40 days. Holy week begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, observing Jesus’ last days on earth. There are evening church services throughout the week and certain days set aside for baking in preparation for the feast on Easter Sunday.

Megali Pembti(Great Thursday)

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Megali Pembti is set aside for bakingtsoureki(Greek sweet bread) and dyeing eggs red, symbolizing the blood of Christ.

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Megali Paraskevi(Great Friday)

Megali Paraskevi is the holiest day of the week and a day of mourning. Church bells ring out a mournful tone all day, flags fly at half-mast, and no one works or cooks on this day. Young women and children decorate Jesus’ epitaph with fresh flowers. At 9 pm, the epitaph parades around local communities in a procession accompanied by somber music.

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Megalo Savato(Great Saturday)

OnMegalo Savato, preparations are made for the resurrection of Christ at midnight and the feast for Easter Sunday. After receiving the “holy light” at midnight mass onMegalo Savato, families gather to break the fast of not eating meat.Margiritsa, a traditional Greek egg and lemon soup with lamb and lamb intestines, is served.

Kyriaki to Pasha(Easter Sunday)

Easter Sunday is a day celebrated with family and friends. Lamb on a spit begins roasting as early as 6 am and is served with roast veggies, Tzatziki (yogurt/garlic sauce), and a variety of salads. This vast banquet is accompanied by singing, dancing, and of course, plenty of Greek wine. OPA!

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FAQs

What are traditions of Greek culture? ›

Most Greeks are named after a religious saint. A very important tradition 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 wishes and small presents.

Why is ancient Greek culture considered to be the birthplace of Western civilization? ›

Through their accomplishments in art, architecture, government, philosophy, education, and science they helped shape Western Civilization. They built strong and intricate buildings, allowing others to see throughout history the plan of the architecture used.

Where did Greek culture come from? ›

The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Minoan and later in Mycenaean Greece, continuing most notably into Classical Greece, while influencing the Roman Empire and its successor the Byzantine Empire.

What is the main culture in Greece? ›

Greece is a collectivist society in the sense that there is strong loyalty shown to familial and social groups. The social life of many Greeks is usually kept to a close circle of family and friends. These personal relationships are deeply important to people's day-to-day life.

What are Greek family traditions? ›

Nameday. Source. In Greek culture, your nameday is almost more important than your birthday. Each person is named after one of the many Greek Orthodox Saints, and their nameday coincides with the day set aside for that Saint. On this day, you are expected to be home with the doors open and snacks and drinks at the ...

What is Greece considered as the birthplace of philosophy? ›

Ancient Greece was the birthplace of Western philosophical ethics. The ideas of Socrates (c. 470–399 bce), Plato, and Aristotle (384–322 bce) will be discussed in the next section. The sudden flowering of philosophy during that period was rooted in the ethical thought of…

Was Greece the birthplace of civilization? ›

Many of the ideas that flourished in the western world were “born” in ancient Greece. This is why Greece is often known as the Cradle of Western Civilization.

What are some of the area of our lives that ancient Greek culture still has influence over today? ›

The water mill, the odometer, the alarm clock, cartography, olympics, basis of geometry, earliest practice of medicine, modern philosophy and discoveries in modern science are the top 10 inventions and discoveries of ancient Greeks that are still used today.

How old is the Greek culture? ›

The civilization of Ancient Greece emerged into the light of history in the 8th century BC. Normally it is regarded as coming to an end when Greece fell to the Romans, in 146 BC.

How did the ancient Greeks dress? ›

Clothing for both women and men consisted of two main garments—a tunic (either a peplos or chiton) and a cloak (himation). The peplos was simply a large rectangle of heavy fabric, usually wool, folded over along the upper edge so that the overfold (apoptygma) would reach to the waist.

What type of culture was Ancient Greece? ›

The religion in ancient Greece was polytheistic, and their gods not only looked human but could take on human form and interact with others at will. Zeus was the ruler of the gods, along with his wife, Hera. Temples were built to honor a specific god, and each god or goddess would have his or her own domain.

What is Greek known for? ›

Greece is famous for its ancient philosophers, like Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Aristotle, to name a few. It is known as the birthplace of democracy in the West; they invented the Olympic Games and theater. Ancient Greeks invented monumental temples with Greek columns.

What are Greek values? ›

The Greeks valued beauty, art, intellect, honor, and truth; the list is long. Some of these values are shown through the story of the Odyssey, which tells of the adventures of Odysseus and his family.

What do we call Greek people? ›

The Greeks (Greek: Έλληνες) have been identified by many ethnonyms. The most common native ethnonym is Hellen (Ancient Greek: Ἕλλην), pl. Hellenes (Ἕλληνες); the name Greeks (Latin: Graeci) was used by the ancient Romans and gradually entered the European languages through its use in Latin.

What is a traditional Greek breakfast? ›

A typical Greek breakfast usually consists of a wide variety of bread, pastry, fruits, and Greek yogurt. These foods are high in nutritional value and a great source of energy — an excellent way to begin your Greek food adventures!

What is the main Greek dish? ›

1. Moussaka. Probably the most famous of Greek dishes, moussaka consists of layers of fried aubergine, minced meat and potatoes, topped with a creamy béchamel sauce and then baked until golden brown. Some Greek restaurants will also serve an equally delectable vegetarian version.

What do Greek people celebrate? ›

Some of the best known traditional celebrations in Greece include Greek Easter, Christmas, the Dormition of the Virgin, the Independence Day, the OXI day, and the Carnival.

What is the Greek way of life? ›

The Greek Way of Life is a survey of the major life experiences which constituted the social reality of classical Greece, broken down into the general topics of conception and pregnancy, birth, childhood, coming of age, early adulthood, and elders and the elderly.

What do Greek children call their parents? ›

Family words in Greek
Greek
parentsγονείς (goneís)
fatherπατέρας (patéras)
motherμητέρα (mitéra) μαμά (mamá)
childrenπαιδιά (paidiá)
31 more rows

What is the birthplace of Greek philosophy and why? ›

It has long been established that ancient Greek philosophy begins in the Greek colonies of Ionia along the coast of Asia Minor as the first three Pre-Socratic philosophers all came from Ionian Miletus and the Milesian School is the first Greek philosophical school of thought.

Why is Greek philosophy important? ›

They pioneered the art of exploring nature rationally and developing theories that explained the existence of the universe. Greek philosophers combined ideas from science, philosophy, art, and politics to form a holistic worldview that moved them away from the then-popular mythological perspective.

Why is Greece considered the birthplace of democracy? ›

In the year 507 B.C., the Athenian leader Cleisthenes introduced a system of political reforms that he called demokratia, or “rule by the people” (from demos, “the people,” and kratos, or “power”). It was the first known democracy in the world.

Where is the birth place of civilization? ›

Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (in modern day Iraq), is often referred to as the cradle of civilization because it is the first place where complex urban centers grew.

What is interesting about Ancient Greek? ›

Ancient Greeks used stones as toilet paper! The city of Athens was named after the goddess Athena. Athens was also the birthplace of democracy. In an attempt to avoid tyranny citizens could vote to have a politician ostracised.

How many Greek gods were there? ›

Ancient Greek religion was based on the belief that there were twelve gods and goddesses that ruled the universe from Mount Olympus, in Greece.

How did the Greek culture influence our world today? ›

They influenced almost every part of today's world, such as government, language, and architecture, as well as making scientific advancements. Also, the successes of these two civilizations lead to many countries modeling most of their public facilities and systems after the ones found in Greece and Rome.

Why is it important to learn about ancient Greece? ›

Ancient Greece is remembered for developing democracy, inventing Western philosophy, realistic art, developing theater like comedy and tragedy, the Olympic Games, inventing pi, and the Pythagoras theorem.

What is the most important legacy of ancient Greece? ›

A major legacy left by classical Greece was a government based on direct democracy. With a direct democracy, citizens ruled by majority vote.

How old is Greek language? ›

Greek language, Indo-European language spoken primarily in Greece. It has a long and well-documented history—the longest of any Indo-European language—spanning 34 centuries.

Who founded Greece? ›

The early history of Ancient Greece

The Minoans were the first great Greek civilisation. They didn't live on mainland Greece but on the nearby island of Crete, between 2200BC and 1450BC. They were known as the Minoans after their legendary king, Minos.

What did Greek girls wear? ›

Typical Clothing for Women

The typical garment worn by women in Ancient Greece was a long tunic called the peplos. The peplos was a long piece of cloth that was fastened about the waist with a belt. Part of the peplos was folded down over the belt to make it appear as if it was two pieces of clothing.

What colors were Ancient Greek clothing? ›

Colors. The colors used during this period were bright hued, such as green, indigo, yellow, violet, dark red, dark purple. Colors that were from the Earth were also used.

Is Ancient Greek a language? ›

Ancient Greek was a pluricentric language, divided into many dialects. The main dialect groups are Attic and Ionic, Aeolic, Arcadocypriot, and Doric, many of them with several subdivisions.

How did the Greek culture spread? ›

Alexander spread Greek culture throughout the Persian Empire, including parts of Asia and Africa. Alexander respected the local cultures he conquered, and allowed their customs to continue.

How did Ancient Greece begin? ›

In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost and the Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks created the Greek alphabet, most likely by modifying the Phoenician. From about 800 BC written records begin to appear.

Which are the two distinct traditions followed by Greeks? ›

Answer: Greeks had followed two distinct traditions. One was the mathematical tradition which was focused on the location of place on the earth's surface, and the other was gathering geographic information through travel and field work.

What do Greek people celebrate? ›

Some of the best known traditional celebrations in Greece include Greek Easter, Christmas, the Dormition of the Virgin, the Independence Day, the OXI day, and the Carnival.

What is Greece famous for? ›

Greece is famous for its ancient philosophers, like Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Aristotle, to name a few. It is known as the birthplace of democracy in the West; they invented the Olympic Games and theater. Ancient Greeks invented monumental temples with Greek columns.

How do you show respect in Greece? ›

A handshake is the most common greeting in Greece. It is exchanged between men, women and children. Close friends may greet each other with a warm embrace or a kiss on the cheek. Others might slap or pat one another's arm or back a few times.

Did the ancient Greeks wear clothes? ›

Clothing for both women and men consisted of two main garments—a tunic (either a peplos or chiton) and a cloak (himation). The peplos was simply a large rectangle of heavy fabric, usually wool, folded over along the upper edge so that the overfold (apoptygma) would reach to the waist.

What were ancient Greek houses called? ›

The ancient Greek word oikos (ancient Greek: οἶκος, plural: οἶκοι; English prefix: eco- for ecology and economics) refers to three related but distinct concepts: the family, the family's property, and the house. Its meaning shifts even within texts. The oikos was the basic unit of society in most Greek city-states.

What is name day in Greece? ›

Name Days in Greece are celebrated even more than birthdays, opposite to all other countries. On someone's name day, there is an open house held and a feast is laid on for everyone who wants to come. Neighbors and friends or relatives usually call and can visit the house, without waiting for an official invitation.

Is Greece a rich or poor country? ›

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RankCountryGDP-PPP ($)
52Romania36,622
53Croatia36,201
54Panama36,085
55Greece35,596
142 more rows
1 Aug 2022

What is Greece called in Greek? ›

The ancient and modern name of the country is Hellas or Hellada (Greek: Ελλάς, Ελλάδα; in polytonic: Ἑλλάς, Ἑλλάδα), and its official name is the Hellenic Republic, Helliniki Dimokratia (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία [eliniˈci ðimokraˈti. a]).

What is Greece's most famous dish? ›

1. Moussaka. Probably the most famous of Greek dishes, moussaka consists of layers of fried aubergine, minced meat and potatoes, topped with a creamy béchamel sauce and then baked until golden brown. Some Greek restaurants will also serve an equally delectable vegetarian version.

What is a lucky number in Greek? ›

For the ancient Greeks seven was, indeed a special and fortunate number. To Pythagoras and his school, for whom the power of numbers was imperative to life itself, seven was a perfect number comprising four, the root of everything on earth and three, the number of the spirit, made up of father, mother and son.

What is Greek for luck? ›

Tyche (/ˈtaɪki/; Ancient Greek: Τύχη Túkhē, 'Luck', Ancient Greek: [tý. kʰɛː], Modern Greek: [ˈti.

What is good luck in Greece? ›

The word Γούρι (Gouri) means both “good luck” and “good luck charm” in Greek.

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