Archive for 'Culture'

A Greek New Year’s Eve

Posted on 31. Dec, 2014 by in Culture, Customs, Vocabulary

By iheartpandas under a CC license on Flickr

By iheartpandas under a CC license on Flickr


Χρόνια πολλά from frozen Athens! This post is about traditions and customs. New Year’s Eve (Παραμονή Πρωτοχρονιάς, paramonee protohronias) is a special day in Greece and each region has different traditions but some customs are common.

In the morning, the children sing the New Year’s Eve carols (κάλαντα Πρωτοχρονιάς, kalanda protohronias) and get money. The most common instrument they use is the triangle (τρίγωνο, trigono) but they may also use a flute (φλογέρα, flogera) or a melodica (melodica, μελόντικα). The lyrics of the carols are related to Άγιος Βασίλης (agios Vasilis, Saint Basil), the Saint of peace (ειρήνη, eereenee) and philanthropy (φιλανθρωπία, gilanthorpeea), who is honored in January 1st. People named Βασίλης (Vasilis)or Βασιλική (Vasiliki) celebrate their name day.

In the evening, people usually have dinner with their family and friends and eat the New Year’s cake (βασιλόπιτα, vasilopita) after midnight. Last year, there was an entry published related to βασιλόπιτα:

At midnight, sometimes people open the faucets and let the water run in order to have money and good luck. Later, they go to clubs or they stay home with their family and friends and they stay up late drinking and playing cards. The most famous game is blackjack. In its Greek version, it’s called 31 (τριάντα ένα, trianda ena) or 21 (είκοσι ένα, eekosee ena). Traditionally, children get presents or money but nowadays people tend to follow the Western tradition and exchange presents in Christmas.

Smashing a pomegranate is also a common custom with different variations. Pomegranate is a symbol of wealth and luck. The landlord  of the house, or just a random person, smashes a pomegranate on the front door. This must be done with force so that the seeds will spread everywhere. If the seeds are nice and red, the people who live in the house will have good luck and money.

By libraryman under a CC license on Flickr

By libraryman under a CC license on Flickr

Another custom related to good luck is the ποδαρικό (podariko): it is believed that the first person to enter the house after midnight or in New Year’s Day must be a nice and kind person in order to bring good luck. They must enter using their right foot (δεξί πόδι, deksee podee).

When the New Year comes people wish each other «Καλή Χρονιά» (kalee hronia). Literally, it means “good year”. The most common present people get or offer is a lucky charm (γούρι, gouree), usually in the shape of a pomegranate. It can be jewelry or an ornament.

Καλή Χρονιά σε όλους! Happy New Year to all!

A Greek lucky charm Μαμά Δέσποινα under a CC license on Flickr

A Greek lucky charm
Μαμά Δέσποινα under a CC license on Flickr

Greek Christmas vocabulary

Posted on 19. Dec, 2014 by in Culture, Vocabulary

Studio Amore under a CC license on Flickr

Studio Amore under a CC license on Flickr

Χρόνια πολλά! It will be Christmas soon so this post is about Christmas vocabulary. If you want to send wishes to your friends and family in Greek, below there are some common phrases that we use:

Καλά Χριστούγεννα (kala hristougena): Merry Christmas

Σου εύχομαι καλά Χριστούγεννα (sou efhomai kala hristougena): I wish you Merry Christmas (informal)

Σας εύχομαι καλά Χριστούγεννα (sas efhomai kala hristougena): I wish you Merry Christmas (formal)

Χρόνια πολλά (hronia pola): it is difficult to translate because there is no similar expression in English. We use it to wish people to live many years.

Καλές γιορτές (kales giortes): from γιορτή (feast, holiday). It means “nice holidays”.

Καλή Χρονιά (kali hronia): Happy New Year

Καλή Πρωτοχρονιά (kali protohronia): Happy New Year’s Eve

Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος (eftihismeno to neo etos): Happy New Year (formal). This is often written in formal cards.

Be careful: χρονιά and χρόνος mean year. However, we never say “Καλό χρόνο”.


j_silla under a CC license on Flickr

j_silla under a CC license on Flickr


And some basic words:

η παραμονή των Χριστουγέννων (ee paramoni ton hristougenon): Christmas’ Eve

η παραμονή της Πρωτοχρονιάς (ee paramoni tis protohronias): New Year’s Eve

η Χριστουγεννιάτικη κάρτα (ee hristougeniatiki karta): Christmas card

το Xριστουγεννιάτικο δέντρο (to hristougeniatiko dentro): Christmas tree

το αστέρι (to asteri): star

η φάτνη (ee fatni): manger

ο Χριστός (o Hristos): Christ

οι τρεις Μάγοι (ee tris magoi): Three Kings. (Literally, three Wizards).

ο άγγελος (o agelos): angel

οι μπάλες (ee bales): balls

η γιρλάντα (ee yeerlanda): garland

τα φωτάκια (ta fotakia): lights

το κερί (to keri): candle

τα στολίδια (ta stolidia): ornaments

το γκι (to gkee): holly

τα κάλαντα (ta kalanda): Christmas Carol

το καμπανάκι (to kabanaki): bell

η κορδέλα (ee kordela): ribbon

τα δώρα (ta dora): presents

ο Άγιος Βασίλης (o agios Vasilis): Santa Basil (Santa Claus). People traditionally exchange gifts in January 1st. This day Άγιος Βασίλης is honored and people who are named Βασίλης (Vasilis) or Βασιλική (Vasiliki) celebrate their name day. Άγιος Βασίλης is the Greek Santa who was not wearing red and did not have a sleigh with reindeer. The western Santa was introduced in the Greek culture after the 50’s.

η βασιλόπιτα (ee vasilopita): New Year’s cake

το έλκηθρο (to elkithro): sleigh

ο τάρανδος (o tarandos): reindeer

ο καλικάντζαρος (o kalikantzaros): goblin

το ξωτικό (to ksotiko): elf

You can see the vocabulary here: Καλά Χριστούγεννα




Funny place names in Greek

Posted on 13. Nov, 2014 by in Culture, Vocabulary

by watz under a CC license on Flickr

by watz under a CC license on Flickr

Words like εστιατόριο (estiatorio, restaurant), or καφενείο (kafeneio, café) are taught to Greek learners at a very early stage.Besides the place names used in formal language, there are other terms used in oral speech. Some of those terms are generation specific and in some cases they are not even understood outside the generation. Those of you who have experienced the Greek nightlife might be familiar with some of these terms.

Μπουγατσατζίδικο (bougatsatzidiko): the place where μπουγάτσα (bougatsa) ,the famous breakfast pastry from Macedonia, is made and served.

Ξενυχτάδικο (kseneehtadeeko): ξενυχτάω (kseneehtao) means to stay up late. Ξενυχτάδικο is a club which is open up to the early-morning hours.

Ορθάδικο (orthadiko): from όρθιος (orthios) which means standing up (not seated). It’s a very small bar with no chairs where people stand up and listen to Greek music. There are only few stools around the bar, lots of smoke and poor air-conditioning.

Ουφάδικο (oufadiko): the ancestor of the internet-café, the Greek version of amusement arcades. In the early 80’s it was the place where teenagers met up and spent their pocket money in the arcade game machines. Some people still miss those places. Ουφάδικο derives from ούφο (oufo), the English UFO.

Πεθαμενατζίδικο: from πεθαίνω (petheno) which means “to die”. It means funeral office.

Ρεμπετάδικο (rebetadiko): from ρεμπέτικο (rebetiko) the urban Greek music originating from Minor Asia. It’s a ταβέρνα (taverna) with live rebetiko music.

Ροκάδικο (rokadiko): a club with live rock music. The word derives from the English word rock.

Σκυλάδικο (skeeladiko): from σκύλος (skeelos, dog). There are many theories about the origin of this name. Σκυλάδικο is a pejorative which is used to define a night club with live Greek music with bouzoukia, electric guitar and drums and usually non-famous singers. It can be found everywhere in Greece, especially in the countryside. It was very popular in the 80’s.

Τσιπουράδικο / ρακάδικο (tsipouradiko, rakadiko): a Greek restaurant where tsipouro, ouzo, raki and similar beverages containing more than 40% alcohol by volume are served. Traditionally, people do not order main dishes but share appetizers. From τσίπουρο (tsipouro) and ρακή (rakee).

Φαστφουντάδικο / χαμπουργκεράδικο (fastfoodadiko / hambourgeradiko): a fast-food restaurant. It derives from the words fast-food and hamburger.

Χοροπηδάδικο (horopeedadeeko): a dance club similar to ορθάδικο. From the verb χοροπηδώ (horopeedo) which means “to hop”.




by SantiMB under a CC license on Flickr

by SantiMB under a CC license on Flickr