There is a certain attribute that makes Greek people different. That is the warmth, the openness, the hugging and air cheek-kissing, the "let me treat you"approach not only to our loved ones but to visitors also. It has to be the sun that fuels our passion for life or maybe our undiluted family culture and tradition, but in Greece we go together!
Greece could be considered as a highly religious country and celebrating patron saint's who happen to be carrying our names is big here. Along with celebrations of our namedays. Presents apart, there are litanies around the country, pilgrimage, devoutness and of course panigiria. They happen ad hoc, on the saint's day and call for a feast. Greek Orthodox tradition blended with Dionysus and his way of worshiping, panigiria are an outdoors celebration of life. The joy of being alive. Ikaria is considered the place to be around August when panigiria are on their peak. Music from handmade traditional instruments is heard, everybody gets up and dances. In couples. In circles. In lines. You'll hear a single-worded invitation. Ela! Come! RSVP is not an option. Sorry, not sorry.
Traditional dances are so unique. Each region has its very own dancing style and tunes. Most songs carry snippets of everyday life and occasions like marriage. They are not hard to learn. You just have not to overthink it.
Men and women used to dance wearing the region's traditional costume back in the day. That is not long lost. You can still spot the occasional Cretan man with the black leather boots, the mustache and the black-tasseled headband proudly worn. Greek costumes, hand-made in argalios -a.k.a the art of using the loom- never fail to inspire with their colorful designs and playful bohemian style today's fashion worldwide.
Come Christmastime, 'tis the season to be jolly and carb-loaded as women and bakeries around make irresistible traditional sugar treats. Melomakarona, Kourabiedes and Diples. All hard to pronounce. All insanely tasty. Better enjoyed when Christmas carols are heard on the background by singing children.
Local etiquette tip: the reward for carol singing grew to become monetary, but luckily some fall for the sugary treats instead of a fistful of money.
Hobgoblins are called Kalikatzari and we are not very fond of them. But New Year's day comes and boom they are gone! In the meantime we cut our vasilopita, a sweet bread, bun or cake that hides a coin inside it. The flouri! Whoever gets it by twist of luck will enjoy year-round luck and prosperity. During the cutting we all gloat like "this year's gonna be my year". But only one gets it. That one could it be you.
Easter in Greece should be a whole chapter. One with many many pages. But talking or in this case writing is cheap.
Different festivities happen in literally every corner of the country. During the Holy Week, Greeks tend to fast, some strictly and some with a few cheat-meals. Every day of this week is different. Church-going is very important especially on Holy Friday when the epitaph is raised up and carried around the place while people mourn holding candles in devoutness. Holy Saturday is somewhat happier, it's the Resurrection day. Dress up and head to the church. When the clock strikes 12, we hug, kiss each other, wish Christos Anesti, all while holding our fancy handmade candles, the lampades.
Around the country local customs take place. In Corfu the marching bands are a sight to behold while locals throw urns from balconies, the mpotides. There are firework wars going on between Villages and in some islands they burn the Judas in the middle of the sea. Easter Sunday is the ultimate feast, the prize for fasting or almost fasting. We roast lamb, we challenge each other in red-dyed eggs breaking and then make up while eating braided sweet buns, called tsoureki. Oh the tsoureki!
All sound Greek to you? Well they shouldn't.