Friday, February 29, 2008

Greek Traditions and Customs (i)

Something you may not be aware of is that this time of year is a very busy time here in Greece, as far as customs go. This time of year is called Απόκριες(Apocries) in Greek. It means staying away from meat, which is the general notion of fasting. It is a Christian celebration, beginning 4 Sundays before lent, and ending on the day we call here "Clean Monday" which is the first day of Lent. It is never at a specific time of year, as the dates depend on when Easter falls. The origin of the customs and traditions are not certain, but one thing is sure, it is really worth visiting Greece at this time of year.

Most of the festivities begin two Thursdays before Lent, called "tsiknopempti". Celebrations vary depending on what part of Greece you live in, but the main idea is that people gather together and eat barbecued meat. It is a sort of thanksgiving for all the good things that God has given us, and a way of eating what we are going to be giving up during the fasting period. In many areas people dress up. In my village, it is a day of masquerading with masks, so that your face is hidden. You see lots of groups of people dressed so that they are not noticed, some dancing, some playing the fool and others playing jokes.

The Sunday after this is the "Small Apocries". Nowadays it is associated with a children's carnival, where the younger members of the population wear their costumes and parade the streets.

The main event is the last Sunday of this celebration. It is a day of clearing the houses of all meat and dairy products, as Lent begins the next day. It is also the day of magnificent carnival parades all around Greece. In most places the parades take place in the afternoon. The streets fill with onlookers, and those in costume dance through the streets to the rhythms of all kinds of music. Most parades end with a bonfire. Although traditions vary all around Greece, this last Sunday has an essence of death and rebirth, as lots of costumes depict. The end of Winter and beginning of Spring is another of its essential factors.

"Clean Monday" is the first day of Lent. Again a communal celebration in many places, people gather in the countryside and feast on vegetarian dishes, singing and dancing. Again traditions differ around the country, but kite-flying is one of the national customs on this day.

Wherever you are, visiting Greece at this time of year is really worth it. It may not be the Greece of the hot, lazy summer days, but it is the Greece of traditions and celebrations.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How to be Greek....

In my last post I asked for feedback on why people live in other countries ... what makes them stay there ... and their thoughts on the homeland. I have received various replies, and am still waiting for more so that I can get my article together... so please please mail me with your thoughts.

Today, sitting at home, various thoughts passed through my mind, and I decided to write an article on how to be Greek, for those of you out there who haven't had the good fortune of being part of this misconstrued race.

Here goes... happy reading...

How to be Greek

1. Always be the king of whatever castle you happen to be in.
2. Always be politically somewhere, to the point of making your party your family.
3. Always do tomorrow what has to be done today.
4. Listen to no other opinion, yours is the only correct one.
5. Always wish you had that job in the civil service.
6. Always disobey rules ... weren't they made to be broken.
7. Always look for the easy road, even if it means stepping over every person en route.
8. Believe you know everything about the world even if you haven't traveled 20km further than your doorstep.
9. Bribe anyone and anything in order to get your job done.
10. Remember that Greeks founded democracy.
11. Forget what democracy actually means.
12. Be happy when others are at their lowest.
13. Blame everything on the system.
14. Use your job to exercise power over everybody... even if you are only a clerk.
15. Be proud of your history and archeology.
16. Build on archaeological sites and land of historic significance.
17. Name the law when it obstructs you.
18. Forget the law when it suits you.

Of course, this is all in humor ... or is it??? Maybe you have some thoughts on this....