Some unique aspects of living in a Greek culture from my perspective.
I haven’t been cooking near as much as I want to, but my free time is about to double with summer working hours being cut in half, so I plan on posting some new delicious recipes soon.
Off the topic of food, I really want to share with you the turmoil that Greece is in right now. It is easy for us, including myself, to hear about what is happening in Greece without really understanding what it means on a daily basis. Even within the last 6 months before we left Greece, we witnessed many changes such as huge pay cuts, tax increases, businesses closing, and the overall spirit of the Greek people being threatened with a strong sense of fear and instability on the rise.
When I think of basil, I think of pesto. When I think of pesto, I think of Italy. When I think of Italy, I think of jumping on a plane and flying straight there! Sigh.
I did get to live in Italy for almost 2 months once, and it was my dream come true. To be really honest, if I hadn’t just met and started to fall in love with my now husband before living there, I might have just never left! But we got to travel around to a few different places together, and I think that is where we both really knew that forever was in sight!
I wanted to share something about Greek culture this morning, something intriguing and maybe even insightful. Something other than a delicious recipe, but that is also soon to follow.
The truth is that I would only be avoiding the obvious elephant in the room, what is actually happening in Greece. Another 48 hour general strike is underway, but this time both public and private sectors are participating. Parliament will take the final vote on the 2nd round of deeper austerity measures today, including additional tax hikes, salary cuts, suspensions, and reduced pensions. The tax is already at high 23% and salaries have been cut 20%, there is a chance for these number to increase by an additional third or more. The extreme and very unpopular austerity measures are merely an ineffective bandaid to try and convince the EU and IMF of releasing the additional bailout funds to keep the country from defaulting.
In my journey of being a Protestant to joining the (Eastern) Greek Orthodox faith, there has definitely been some ups and downs. The first down was in the beginning of dating my husband and discovering that we not only had many cultural differences but religious ones too. I then lacked the faith that we could find some common ground to stand on together without trying to persuade one another to the other side, God proved me wrong! At that point though, there was already an abundance of love pulling us together, so from there we began the challenging road of figuring out how we could be together and what it would look like in an everyday life setting. The first high came when I began to look into the history of Christianity and Orthodoxy. I was enthralled to discover so much about not only the roots of the Christian faith itself but also the foundations of the Orthodox faith. I became captivated about where, when, and how Christianity started and even carried on today in so many of the same ways!
Just some Greek coffee and fresh juice on a typical visit to yiayia’s house.
Our Easter lunch at home in my husband’s parent’s house. Stuffed beefteki, lamb meat skewers, traditional Easter soups, salad, lots of wonderful cheeses and sauces, wine, and of course red eggs to hit together!
On Holy Friday evening, the theme is Christ’s descent into Hades during which the Gospel of repentance and reconciliation with God is shared for all. The service begins by singing lamentations as we stand before the tomb of Christ remembering His unjust punishment and the shedding of His innocent blood. But the service will end with a joy and hope from the reading of Prophet Ezekiel in which he describes his vision of the resurrection yet to come. In the midst of despair, we are told there is hope, for not even death can separate us from the unfailing love and power of God. Death will be conquered and faithfulness rewarded.
For me, these next two weeks are really wonderful to actually get to experience in Greece. This first week, called Big Week, is really somber and quiet throughout the villages, but beginning Saturday after midnight the celebrations and parties begin and last for another whole week!
On March 25, 1821,Bishop Germanos of Patras courageously raised the Greek flag at the monastery of Agia Lavras in the Peloponnese, and declared “Eleftheria i Thanatos” (Freedom or Death). This was the first day of the struggle for the next 9 years, until 1830. March 25th was already a significant date: it is also the feast of the Annunciation of angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, where she freely chose to bear Christ, who would ultimately free humanity of their sins.
Greece continued to endure many more struggles until 1947, when her current borders were finally achieved. In my opinion, the 400 years of slavery has greatly effected even the modern Greeks. I think the occupation and almost utter devastation of this country is a huge reason they are somewhat still living decades behind western Europe and the US, among some other holdbacks as well.
Imagine that if you say, I will “knock you up” in England, it is harmless, simply meaning to wake them up; If you tell an American I will ”knock you up,” your chances of getting slapped just increased 862%.
Some common greetings and responses:
Salad. Either traditional Geek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, feta, and olives or a warm salad of village grass served with lemon and oil (V’s favorite)
Fried Cheeses. There are too many wonderful varieties to mention them all, but most common are either a hard, salty cheese that is grilled or a lightly fried cheese log filled with ham and white, soft cheese
The Greek culture has many superstitions, and although the majority claim to not actually believe them, there is still a lot of evidence around that some are believers. Some of the more common stories are as follows:
It is still very common to spit on the devil during a baptism service! Although, it is never actual spit, it is more of a gesture.
These are only a few of the many but probably the most commonly believed. Sometimes I am surprised at what people believe, other times, I am just really embarrassed for them! Overall, I think it is interesting what superstitions have arisen from various cultures.