Archive for 'Culture'

Happy Independence Day!

Posted on 24. Mar, 2015 by in Culture, Vocabulary

Aster-oid under a CC license on Flickr

Aster-oid under a CC license on Flickr

On the 25th of March we celebrate the Independence Day, i.e. the revolution of the Greeks against the Turks in 1921. This post is not about the historical facts, there are just some information about the way we celebrate, about kalamatianos, the famous Greek dance, and about the traditional foods we eat.

Freedom or Death (Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος)

This is the motto that best describes the principles of the Greeks who revolted against the Turks in 1921. (Ελληνική επανάσταση, Greek revolution). It consists of nine syllables (e-lef-the-ree-a-ee-tha-na-tos). The nine stripes of the Greek flag represent this phrase.

How we celebrate it

The Greek Independence Day – 25η Μαρτίου, as we call it-  is celebrated throughout the country, by parades, memorials to the heroes of the revolution and special events. The day before, there are no lessons in schools, and events, such as theatrical plays based on the life of the heroes, are organized.

Sometimes, there are performances of Greek dances organized by local organizations and clubs. The most famous Greek dance is καλαματιανός or συρτός which originates from the Peloponnese. According to some theories, it has its origins in ancient times. It is danced in all areas by men and women. The beat is 7/8 and it has twelve basic steps. The dancers  dance in circle and the one who leads improvises. If you have been to a Greek πανηγύρι (feast) you are very likely to have seen people dancing – or to have danced yourself- καλαματιανό. There are different dances in every area but kalamatianos is danced everywhere in Greece.

A video of a traditional kalamatiano song by Domna Samiou

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What we eat

We eat μπακαλιάρο (bakaliaro, salted cod) and σκορδαλιά (skordalia, garlic sauce), although it is the period of Lent and fish is eliminated. The reason is that at the same day we also celebrate the Annunciation (Ευαγγελισμός της Θεοτόκου) which is a happy event, therefore the people who fast are allowed to consume fish, oil and wine. The reason  we eat cod is because in the past people could not afford fresh fish so salted cod was a good alternative. It is a tradition that is followed even nowadays.

If you happen to be in Greece this day, just blend with the locals and go to the nearest plaza to watch the performance of traditional dances. If you don’t like dances and parades, you can still eat cod and if you are brave enough, you can taste σκορδαλιά.

Χρόνια πολλά!

Love is more than a four-letter word

Posted on 12. Feb, 2015 by in Culture, Vocabulary

Simon & His camera under a CC license on Flickr

Simon & His camera under a CC license on Flickr

The Greeks are very creative when it comes to words of love. It doesn’t matter if we are cynical or romantic, extrovert or introvert, we all use words of love when addressing our alter ego. Below there is a sample of a “Greek vocabulary of love”. You might think that some of these words are ridiculous and some Greeks believe the same. However, they are commonly used in order to express affection and love.

  • Αγάπη μου= my love. The most famous expression. The diminutive “αγαπούλα μου” (my little love) is also very common. For more information on diminutives, check my last post.
  • Ζωή μου= literally: my life
  • Καρδιά μου= literally: my heart. It’s another way of saying “my love”. The diminutive is καρδούλα μου (my little heart).
  • Κορίτσι μου / κοριτσάκι μου= my girl / my little girl. It can be used for any woman in spite of her age.
  • Κούκλα μου. Κούκλα means doll and it is used when addressing a woman. The derivatives are κουκλίτσα, κουκλάκι (little doll) or κουκλάρα (literally it means big doll and metaphorically hot woman).
  • Μάτια μου= literally: my eyes. I guess the metaphoric meaning would be “my precious”. The diminutive ματάκια μου is common as well.
  • Μωρό μου / μωράκι μου= my baby / my little baby. It can be used to address both men and women.
  • Φως μου= literally: my light.
  • Ψυχή μου= literally: my soul.

The animal kingdom could not be missing from the list. Usually women use these words to address their partners.

  • γατάκι= kitten
  • γουρουνάκι= little pig
  • ζουζουνάκι= little bug
  • κουνελάκι= little rabbit
  • λιονταράκι= little lion
  • μαϊμουδάκι= little monkey
  • τιγράκι= little tiger

The list is endless and the only limit is one’s imagination. Some people use names of flowers (τριανταφυλλάκι μου, my little rose), fruits (βερικοκάκι μου, my little apricot), or they invent words than mean nothing.


If you want to write a card to your Greek partner you can pleasantly surprise them by writing a few phrases in Greek:

  • Είσαι η ζωή μου= you are my life
  • Είσαι ό,τι καλύτερο μου έχει συμβεί= you are the best thing that happened to me
  • Θέλω να είμαι πάντα μαζί σου= I want to be with you always

And a  famous love song by Nikos Papazoglou called Αύγουστος (August)

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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