Culture of Athens

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If you haven’t already visited Athens, you definitely have to add it to your bucket list of places to travel. You will be fascinated by the culture of Athens, as well as the history, Greek mythology, and its fables. Nowadays, Athens definitely has a strong national identity.

The country’s history has had a significant effect on Athens and has even shaped urban life in modern times. From its gastronomy scene to its culture and even its inhabitants, Athens has been influenced to a great extent by the Greek traditions and customs.

Maintaining these traditions has enabled people to still keep their national identity alive after centuries of hardships and foreign invasions.

Celebrations in Athens

Most rituals, traditions, and cultural activities are related to the Greek Orthodox faith.

It is very common for families and friends to gather together to celebrate holidays such as Christmas or Easter, which have both cultural and social significance in Greek society.

With 98% of the Greek population being Orthodox Christian, it is also quite usual for families to regularly attend church services.

As society has evolved and modernized, there have been several changes in most traditional activities. For example, traditional Greek dance not only differs from one region to another but has also evolved significantly over time.

The same holds true for local cuisine. Each place around Greece is known for one or more specific dishes that, over time, have evolved to meet the needs of the new generations.

Superstition

People in Athens city and all-around Greece are very superstitious and believe in all sorts of paranormal and supernatural events.

Evil Eye

Many believe that a person can catch “matiasma” widely known as the evil eye, by a malevolent glare from envious people. Matiasma causes injury or misfortune to others.

According to local beliefs, wearing a charm such as a blue marble glass with an eye painted on it is the best way to avoid or reduce the effects of the evil eye. In Greek culture, the color blue (turquoise) is considered to be effective against the evil eye. Ironically, this color is also believed to be the one causing matiasma to people.

The use of garlic, is according to local beliefs, another way to prevent the evil eye, and therefore, it is quite common for Greeks to hang garlic at their homes’ entrances.

Greek evil eye charms
Culture of Athens: Greek evil eye charms. Courtesy: wikimedia.org

Priests

In villages and the suburbs, it’s a custom for people to kiss the hand of a priest and it’s also a belief that seeing a priest and a black cat on the same day it’s a sign of bad luck or an upcoming danger.

Knives

Another popular belief is that handing a knife to someone will cause a fight between the two. Therefore, Greeks usually place the knives on the table and let the other person pick them up.

Name Giving Ceremonies

Name giving is a common tradition in the culture of Athens, and is the reason why some names are so popular in Greece.

This tradition is to ensure the continuation of a family’s name. When a child is born, according to gender, he or she is named after a grandparent.

If a newborn is a boy, it’s a common tradition that he will be given the name of his paternal grandfather. If a newborn is a girl, she will get the name of her maternal grandmother.

This tradition is now diminishing as modern parents have chosen not to follow it or instead use the grandparent’s name as the child’s middle name.

name giving tradition in athens
Name giving ceremony in Athens, Greece

Music

Did you know that the word music comes from the Greek word “musiki”? Musiki in Greek means the art of the nine Muses.

Music is deeply ingrained in the culture of Athens. In ancient times, music was taught to boys from the age of six and played an essential role in the Greek educational system.

Ancient Greek music generally included mixed choirs for spiritual, celebratory, and entertainment purposes. Later, music was influenced by the Byzantine and Roman Empires.

In the 20th century, many social and cultural changes carved a new destiny for local Greek folk songs. Today, when the rest of Europe starts to settle in clubs around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., it is not surprising to see people here in Athens settle in clubs at 1 a.m.

entertainment in Athens Greece
Live stage entertainment in Athens city

Plate Smashing

The origin of this practice is unknown, but it is mainly associated with the expression of happiness, joy, and love for each other. It was also associated with the expression of appreciation for the music or the singer.

However, due to its violent nature, this tradition was banned by the Green Parliament back in 1969 and was replaced by bouzoukia, which essentially means throwing flowers at the singer’s feet to show him respect.

Even though it’s a prohibited tradition, you may still see plates breaking at private parties and celebrations.

Martis

If you have watched a film that gives you an insight into the culture of Athens, you may have noticed the red and white bracelets on women’s heads or hands.

All over Greece, people celebrate spring by wearing bracelets made of red and white flowers, commonly referred to as Martis.

They wear this bracelet for the whole month of March, and it is one of these traditions that have not changed over the 9,000 years of Greek history.

The color white symbolizes purity, while red is a symbol of passion and life.

In ancient Greek, it was often believed that this bracelet would protect the wearer from all kinds of diseases and the strong light of the spring sun.

Athens is a place filled with some of the most ancient sites, landmarks, and traditions in the world. Home of great legends and stories of mythological creatures, Athens is a city of beauty and contrasts.

The Greek capital is a true world wonder inside and out and for sure you can find a lot of reasons to visit this marvelous city!

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