I’m sure many of you have seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and if not, please go watch it. Often times when I am asked about my ethnicity and I tell people I’m Greek, their immediate response is, “Is your life just like the movie?!” While there are many aspects of the movie that I feel are accurate, not all are.
By no means did I grow up in a house that was solely based around the Greek culture. My dad’s parents were born in Greece and immigrated to the U.S. and my mom’s dad’s parents were born in Greece and immigrated over. It was important to my parents to incorporate certain aspects of the Greek culture into our raising but also really make sure we live the American dream.
Being proud of our culture and heritage
One thing I can say is that Greeks are very proud of where they come from and their culture, as they or anyone should be! In the movie, the grandfather is notorious for taking any word and proving how the root of any word can be traced back to the Greek language. The same goes in my family in the sense that it may not necessarily be analyzing words but parts of history, architecture, Biblical references, etc.
Family is a huge deal in the Greek culture, not that it’s not in others, but sometimes it feels like more so with Greeks. Quite frankly, in my big fat Greek family, everybody is up in everybody’s business. You tell one person something, next thing you know your dad’s third cousin’s wife knows (this is an extreme exaggeration). But, with everyone in your family knowing what’s going on in your life at all times comes a huge support system. This also means though, that whenever my family didn’t want my brother’s and I to know something, they spoke Greek to each other. I still regret not learning Greek at a young age mainly for this reason. I do know a couple words, the important ones at least!
Also, in case you were wondering, yes, my family has Niko’s, Nick’s, Nicholas’ out the wazoo.
The Greek culture is full of traditions and it’s probably one of the biggest reasons I love being Greek. I know this goes hand-in-and with what I was just talking about related to culture, but I thought it deserved it’s own spotlight. In college, I went to a church service at a non-denominational church for the first time in my life. I thought it was such a cool and unique service but would be lying to say I was thrown off because I was used to Greek services. I came to realize how much I appreciate the church services at Greek churches and that they have ultimately stayed the same since the beginning of time. Side note, this is not saying I didn’t enjoy my experience at the non-denominational church or that there is anything wrong with them at all! I actually loved being able to sing along to the songs and have since downloaded/listened to many of them on Spotify!
Another tradition is one around New Years. At the beginning of the year my Yiayia makes what my brothers and I call “sweet-bread.” I know the Greek name but me trying to spell that…haha jokes. Anyways, in this sweet-bread is a silver dollar. You cut pieces of the bread for every person in your family and whomever’s slice has the coin will have a good year. Typically, we start with a piece for the whole household and then work around. By the way, yes, the bread is deliciously sweet aka our name “sweet-bread.”
I think the biggest tradition and probably one of my favorites though has to be Easter (ironic timing of this post right ;)). Greek Easter is typically different than normal Easter, as we use a different calendar that waits for Passover to happen. I always joke that while all the other kids were hunting for Easter eggs, we were hunting for red-dyed eggs the week after (I’ll explain this in a second). However, that really isn’t accurate. My parents did a good job of having the Easter Bunny “stop by” our house the same night as everyone else so that we still got that experience and then the Easter Bunny would have also stopped my grandparents house later! The tradition in this though, is as mentioned, at church we would get red-dyed Easter eggs symbolizing the blood of Christ. Then we would take those Easter eggs and play a game where each person gets one and you go around and hit each other’s egg and whomever’s egg cracks, loses. Before you hit them one person says “Christos Anesti (Christ has risen)” and the other responds “Alithos Anesti (truly He has risen). Once you do both ends and play everyone there is a winner. It’s nothing major, but something I look forward to every year.
Food is the center of everything
You probably think I have an obsession with food at this point, to be honest, not inaccurate, who doesn’t? But, when you grow up and constantly have food everywhere, it’s hard not to be. Greek woman take on the responsibility to make sure that their family’s are fed or I should say overfed. We always give my mom crap because when she cooks dinner it usually includes an entree, salad, and three other sides. But, it’s funny because whenever I go to my Yiayia and Papou’s (grandma and grandpa in Greek) on either side, I’ve noticed that they do it too! Food is such a big part of the Greek culture (#blessed) that typically the first question you’re asked when entering a Greek household is, “What can I get you to eat?” Don’t bother saying that you’re not hungry because it doesn’t matter, you will still get some sort of snack. I also want to put a fair warning to those who aren’t aware, if you turn down food from a Greek woman, they get very offended, don’t do it. Lastly, can I just say, who doesn’t love baklava?! If you don’t, come to the Agnos residence and try my mom’s, I can bet you won’t say it again!
In case you didn’t know, Jennifer Aniston (Rachel on Friends) is Greek! (Naming all the Greek celebrities is a total Greek thing to do btw).
To my fellow Orthodox Christians, happy Good Friday and Christos Anesti! I hope you have a kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck-fantastic (Rachel used this in an episode once) Easter!