NAME DAY CELEBRATIONS
Most Greeks are named after a saint; it is a tradition that their name day (celebration day) is the same day as the saint’s name day. On this day, friends and family will visit that person, bringing gifts and offering their wishes. The host or hostess of the house offers the guests cakes, sweets, alcohol and soft drinks. Name days are far more important to the Greeks than birthdays.
In Greece it is customary for a couple to get engaged before getting married. The man has to ask the father’s permission for his daughter’s hand in marriage, here he usually offers the father gifts. When the wedding is agreed upon, the priest is invited round to bless the engagement rings (which later become the wedding rings) and to place them on the couple’s left hand.
On the day of the wedding, the bride is dressed with the help of friends and women from the family. It’s considered to be bad luck for the groom to see the bride the day before the wedding ceremony. After the priest has pronounced the couple married, the guests throw rice over the couples head. This is considered to be a good omen to the couple and to create new couples from the guests. When the ceremony is over, the newly married couple remains in the church until all their guests have given them, their wishes. Then the couple and the guests go to the wedding reception (usually held at a restaurant that has been rented for the night), there they eat, drink and dance all night long. After the reception the new couple usually leaves for its honeymoon.
The day of the baptism is the most important day in the life of a Greek Orthodox’s life. A baby is baptised usually in the first year of its life. At the baptism, the baby is undressed and wrapped in a clean white towel. The priest blesses the baptismal water and adds some olive oil that is brought to the priest by the godparents before the ceremony begins. He dips the baby into the holy water three times, repeating the baby’s given name. the baby then receives a sacrament from the priest, which is olive oil that has been blessed by the patriarch (myrrh). At this point the baby is dressed in white clothes and the priest puts a golden cross on a chain around its neck (the golden cross and chain have been provided by the godparents), and gives the baby its first holy communion. When the ceremony ends, the parents kiss the godparents hands and then remain in the church to accept the guest’s wishes. Sugar-coated almonds, wrapped in lace with a small gift tied to it is given to each of the guests (bobonieres). A celebration usually follows at the parents’ house or at a restaurant.
Greek carnival time is called Apokries; it is for the two weeks before Ash Monday (Kathari Deftera – Clean Monday). People dress up (as the English do at fancy dress parties). Most people party in the streets and in bars and restaurants, throwing colorful confetti at one another or anybody passing by.