Greek Culture

Greek Culture

A deep-rooted culture that is worthy of a dozen civilizations first emerged in Mycenaean Greece and expanded over the Aegean and Ionian seas. The most glorious empires in history have made their own contribution to this eclectic palette, from Classical Greek to the Roman and Byzantine. The turning point of it all was the Ottoman era, which introduced new additions to Greek cultural expressions. As a result, the traditions and customary practices are still under the influence of the older eras, while most of the national values were shaped after the independence. The key to everyday life is an easy-going and sociable approach. Yet, the Greek is not so relaxed when it comes to matters of national identity and patriotism.

The Greek society is collectivist, built around concepts of family and unity. Schedules are not too tight, and everyone finds a way to socialize on their own time. Especially in the summer season, you will see the siestas carried to the outdoors, to breezy cafes or parks. The cultural spectacle of Greece gets all the more awe-inspiring once the darkness falls and it is dinner time. You will witness some of the most dynamic night rituals in the world.

Eating & Drinking

“The face of Mediterranean cuisine, Greek food brings together what many hail as the quintessential ingredients of the coast, Balkans, and the Levant in its own unique way.”

Today’s Greek cuisine consists of a blend of Ancient Greek practices and modern influences from Southeastern Europe. Many of the traditional dishes and recipes came to the land after the Ottoman conquest. And, they became one with the older cooking techniques over time. The result is one of the healthiest diets in the world, based on local ingredients that are proven to do wonders for your body and soul. Olives from the most fertile groves, best quality fish from the exuberant Mediterranean, and the lightest cooking techniques in any cuisine… This is the summary of Greek cuisine. Prepare to be tantalized by a sensual feast of sights, smells, and tastes.

Moussaka, tzatziki, myriad soups, Baklava, and the aromatic Ouzo. Greek delicacies more than we can count. Coriander and oregano are the spices that give that incredible taste you are experiencing. Traditional pita bread accompanies almost every meal, along with the world-famous meze dishes. These are the heart and soul of Greek culture. Some must-try meze includes dolmades, made with exquisite vine leaves and olive oil, fried calamari, and skordalia, a mashed potato dip with plenty of garlic. As for sweeter tastes, the traditional bread Tsoureki is a recipe that is almost a thousand years old. It is the ultimate street food and pastry delight you will come across in Greece.

The star of Balkan alcoholic drinks, Ouzo is Greek to the bone. This anise-flavored wonder is not only the number one souvenir to take from Greece but also the cornerstone of a hearty culinary ritual. Ouzo is served with some feta cheese, fresh fruits, and the best mezes in the country. Warm conversations and lots of laughter accompany it. So while you are there, make sure you reserve a scenic table for some ouzo with your travel buddies.

Unique Crafts & Shopping

Greece has such a wide selection of unique crafts that you will be wondering where to look first. Some reflecting the best of Greek culture are handmade leather sandals, Evil Eye wards, worry beads, and musical instruments. One of the most ancient lands in the world call for a day of antique shopping. Among a plethora of contemporary souvenir shops, you will easily catch sight of some antique stores that Greece takes pride in. And arguably the most popular antique items are jewelry. Simply elegant, Hellenistic jewelry is perfect as a gift or even just to spoil yourself a little. And of course, organic products are a dime a dozen and indisputable symbols of Greek culture.

When in Athens, go for the more iconic items such as memorable souvenirs reflecting the best of Greek landscapes and everything Mediterranean. This is the best place to also indulge in shopping for culinary delights such as Kozani saffron. Visit the incredible Monastiraki Square—this is the epicenter of memorabilia and second-hand wonders embodying Greek Culture. All across the Peloponnese, you will find the best authentic rug and weaving ateliers. It is also a great place to buy organic products such as olive oil, Greek honey, and homemade cosmetics. Santorini proudly presents to you its delightful wines, made from local grapes grown in mineral-laden volcanic soil. Mykonian sandals and windmill miniatures are the signature handcrafts in Mykonos.

If you wish to take a piece of Greek culture home as you leave, there is no better choice than a bottle of ouzo, handmade ceramics from the islands, and some sweet delicacies like baklava. The best places to shop in Greece are flea markets and shopping neighborhoods, where you will find myriad manufactured or handcrafted items for reasonable prices.

  • Takeaway: You may come across a handful of small shops that don’t accept credit cards, so it is wise to carry cash. If you are on a budget, make sure you browse at every stall before making a decision.

Religion & Etiquette

The national religion of Greece is the Greek Orthodox Church, and a majority of the population are followers. However, most Greek people who identify as Greek Orthodox don’t practice the religion devotedly. It is a major constituent of traditions and the concept of national unity in Greece. Family is the core of society according to the belief. This makes Greece one of those countries that value loyalty, unity, and cooperation more than anything else. However, the Mediterranean spirit plays a pivotal role in the deliverance of religious custom. This means that nothing is too uptight in Greek culture, and they tend to be as relaxed as possible in their normative ways.

The Greek way of politeness is to accept what you are offered, especially if it is food. Your acceptance and thankfulness will mean that you trust the other party. Also, Greek people are very fond of giving their possessions to other people if they show too much interest. Don’t expect everything, or everybody, to be on time. Long siestas have affected Greek culture so deeply that it is perfectly fine to be a couple of dozen minutes late. If someone invites you over for a meal, it is even customary to be late. So, try to loosen up and blend in with the chill vibes in Greece.

The Greeks are fairly modern and open-minded when it comes to issues such as dressing or public displays of affection. Since most of the places you will be visiting are coastal, it is almost always okay to walk around in revealing clothes. However, Greek people usually dress up when going to dinner or for drinks. If you are visiting churches or monasteries, they may require you to cover your legs and shoulders before going in, especially for female visitors.

Festivals & Events

“The entertainment agenda of Greece is almost always packed with religious celebrations, sensuous performances in the atmospheric ancient theaters, and much more than you can image.”

Greece has been blessed with plenty of antique stages, and it knows how to honor them right. And considering it is the birthplace of hedonism, it is no surprise that the Greek people are natural celebrators. From rituals exalting the cycles of nature to frisky arts and music festivals, contemporary and traditional events is a dime a dozen throughout the year. They are perfect to fill your night in the balmy weather of the Mediterranean surrounded by a plethora of culture-laden sights. Greece finds its mojo in the summer when the most vivid time of the coast finds soul through a plethora of events.

Perhaps the most famous and joyous occasion in Greece is the Epidaurus festival. Among the oldest performance shows in Europe dating back to the 50s, it is simply electrifying. Thousands of people flock to Athens every summer to revel in unforgettable theatre, music, and dance performances. If you are traveling in the summer, there is no chance that you will miss this artistic feast. An open-air film festival also awaits cinema lovers at the heart of Athens.

Greece’s religious festivals mostly take place during the winter months, which is not the travel season for the islands. However, you will find a couple of traditional festivals in the summer and spring. From May to June, a jaw-dropping feast is held for the Day of the Holy Spirit. It is not only a jolly time of the year but also a perfect opportunity to be a part of the older traditions of Greek culture. In August, the country celebrates the Day of the Assumption. The islands are particularly festive, as they are filled with chapels hailing Virgin Mary.

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