September 13, 2007

Sneezing

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , at 9:32 am by expatdiane

In Greek superstition if you sneeze it is believed that somebody is talking about you. Since you do not know who the person is you may try to figure out by saying out peoples names. If you say a name and you stop sneezing it is thought that that is the person who is talking about you.

Another way to find out who is talking about you is asking someone for a three digit number. You then add the three digits together and come out with another number. Using the final number you count down from the start of the alphabet. The number you get must be less then or equal to the maximum characters in your alphabet, in the Greek Alphabet this is 24, in the English 26. If it is more you count the numbers together once again to find a smaller number. The letter the number falls on is the first letter of the name of the person that is talking about you.

Two examples: (With any two numbers you will get the first circumstance (most likely), and rarely will you use the second.)
For the number 333. Add it together 3+3+3=9 . Now count down to ninth letter which is “I”. The person who is talking about you is thought to have a name beginning with “I”.

For the number 999. Add it together 9+9+9=27. In the English Alphabet there is only 26 characters so we add 2+7 together and get “9″. Now count down to ninth letter which is “I”. The person who is talking about you is thought to have a name beginning with “I”.

As you do not know who is talking about you, the person who believes this superstition may spit down three times on their chest to avoid something bad occurring to them via “the evil eye”. The use of the number three in all the above has to do with the holy trinity, and using it to help you both know who is talking about you as well as safeguard you.

Itchy hand

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , at 9:31 am by expatdiane

In Greek superstition if you have an itchy hand it foretells that you are either going to receive or give money. If you’re right hand is itchy it indicates that you will get money. If you’re left hand is itchy it indicates that you will give money. If both hands are itchy then you will both give and receive money. In general the right hand is considered to be luckier then the left hand. For this reason it said that you receive from the right and give from the left. Your hand is said to be “itchy” as it anticipates the transaction that is to occur. In such your hand is said to prophesize the giving or taking of money. Further the right hand is thought to be holy and the left unholy. This is why you receive from the right, as in the case of money it is usually believed better to give then receive. The use of the “right’ can be further be seen in the Orthodox church, the Son of God sits to the right of the father, Orthodox leity cross with the right, etc.

The use of garlic

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , , , at 9:31 am by expatdiane

It is customary for Greeks to use Garlic to ward off evil. Garlic is believed to ward off demons and evil spirits in the same manner that incense does. Demons and evil spirits are believed to fear it. Garlic can be worn in the clothes of an individual to ward off evil. If you find garlic hanging in Greek businesses or houses it is there for the purpose of warding off evil. Garlic is believed to be very effective against The Evil Eye.

The use of salt

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , at 9:28 am by expatdiane

In Greek superstition salt is considered to have great powers as a purifying force. In such, it can be used to ward off demons and evil spirits by throwing it over your left shoulder. Similarly a new house can be purified by sprinkling it with salt to remove any demons or lurking evil spirits.

Salt can also be used to remove an unwanted guest, or a guest that has overstayed their welcome from your house. To remove an unwanted guest, salt can either be sprinkled on the chair of the unwanted guest, or thrown behind them. It is said that if the guest sees you throw the salt the power of the salt is weakened, and is not as effective. Watch out if they see you!

In some areas of Greece, another superstition tied to salt is that it should be covered in the darkness of the night. If the moon or the stars shine upon it, it is believed that the carrier of the salt will develop warts or a rash on their body. Salt and the darkness of the night do not interact well with one and other, as a result of this it is believed a rash will occur on the salt holder’s body.

Priests

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , at 9:27 am by expatdiane

The Greek people are a religious people with religion forming a part of their cultural essence. This has always been the case, even in ancient Greece the populations were very religious creating shrines throughout Greece, Cyprus and anywhere they colonized to their Gods.

In regards to respect of priests, it is customary for Greeks upon seeing one to go up to them and kiss their hands or even the cloth that they wear. Priests were as highly respected in ancient times as they are today.

However, just as in ancient times as today it was considered a bad omen to see a priest walking in the street. Upon seeing one Greeks may spit three times into their shirt. It was also considered bad luck to see a priest in the morning if someone had a handkerchief they may tie it until the day ended. In this manner any bad luck would be tied until a time when the chance of something happening would not be as likely.

Spitting

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , at 9:25 am by expatdiane

It is customary for Greeks to spit to ward off evil. If a Greek hears bad news they may spit on themselves three times to ward of the possibility of anything bad happening to themselves. The person does not actually spit on themselves what they say is “Ptew, Ptew, Ptew” with very little spit actually being thrown down onto their chest. They may even raise their shirt and spit between their clothes towards their chest. Greek Fishermen may spit into their nets so that they will ward off any evil allowing them to get a good catch.

If someone compliments a Greek to avoid the Evil Eye they may spit onto themselves, and may say to the person “Ptew, Ptew mi me matiasis”, which basically says, “I’m spitting on myself so that you do not cause the Evil Eye to come upon me.” Spitting is believed to be very effective against The Evil Eye.

Even in the Greek Orthodox church during the rite of Baptism the priest will spit. When a child is baptized the priest will blow into the air three times to glorify the Trinity, and spit into the ground three times at the devil. The three times spitting is believed to come from this.

September 12, 2007

Getting married in Greece

Posted in Getting Married in Greece tagged , , , , at 6:49 pm by expatdiane

Marriage in the Orthodox Church for a non-Orthodox:

Paperwork needed:
1. An “eligibility to marry” form. This form can be obtained from the American Embassy. It is a simple form but one must go in to complete it and swear under oath they are free to marry.
2. A baptismal certificate from any Christian denomination translated in Greek.
3. A form that is given from the church (where you will be married) stating that the children that come out of the marriage will be brought up Orthodox. This form must be signed before a notary.
4. Birth certificate translated in Greek.
5. Dissolution of marriage if married previously.

September 11, 2007

An Orthodox Wedding

Posted in Getting Married in Greece tagged , , , , , at 9:52 am by expatdiane

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The Orthodox Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony of the Greek Orthodox Church is an ancient and meaningful service that has been celebrated in its present form for centuries. The service is abundant with symbols that reflect marriage: love, mutual respect, equality and sacrifice.

The ceremony consists of two parts which are distinct and separate from each other: The service of the Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage. Everything in the ceremony has a special meaning and significance, especially the repetition of each act three times to symbolize and to invoke the mystical presence of the Holy Trinity. The Wedding begins as the white candles are handed to The Bride and The Groom. These candles symbolize their spiritual willingness to receive Christ.

The Service of Betrothal

Petitions are chanted for the spiritual welfare of the couple. The highlight during this service is the exchanging of the rings. The priest then blesses the rings. He holds them in his right hand, and making the sign of the cross over their heads, he betroths the servants of God, The Bride to The Groom. The rings are then placed on their right hands, for it is the right hand of God that blesses, it was the right hand of God to which Christ ascended, and it is also to the right that those who will inherit the eternal life will ascend.

The koumbaro (religious sponsor) then exchanges the rings three times. The exchange signifies that in married life, the weakness of one partner will be compensated by the strength of the other, the imperfections of one, by the perfection of the other. By themselves, the newly betrothed are incomplete, but together they are made perfect. The rite of the betrothal ends with the priest praying for betrothal of mutual promise, officially given before the church, may prove in true faith, concord and love.

The Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage

The ceremony consists of petitions, prayers, the crowning, readings from the New Testament, the offering of the common cup, the circling of the ceremonial table and the benediction. At the conclusion of the prayers, the priest joins the hands of The Bride and The Groom. The hands are kept joined until the end of the service to symbolize the union and the oneness of the couple.

The Crowning

This is the focal point of the marriage ceremony. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the sacrament. The wedding crowns (stefana) are joined by a ribbon which again symbolizes the unity of the couple and the presence of Christ who blesses and joins the couple and establishes them as the King and Queen of their home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice and integrity. The priest takes the two crowns and blesses The Bride and The Groom, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and then places the crowns on them. The Koumbaro then steps behind The Bride and The Groom and interchanges the crowns three times as a witness to the sealing of the union.

Some interpret the crowns used in the Orthodox wedding ceremony to refer to the crowns of Martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self sacrifice on both sides.

The Common Cup

The rite of crowning is followed by the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. The Gospel reading describes the marriage at Cana of Galilee which was attended and blessed by Christ and for which He reserved His first miracle. There He converted the water into wine and gave if it to the newlyweds. In remembrance of this blessing, wine is given the couple. This is the “common cup” of life denoting the mutual sharing of joy and sorrow, the token of a life of harmony. The drinking of wine from the common cup serves to impress upon the couple that from that moment on they will share everything in life, joys, as well as sorrows, and that they are to “bear one another’s burdens.” Their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they will be shared.

The Ceremonial Walk

The priest then leads The Bride and The Groom in a circle around the table on which are placed the Gospel and the Cross, the one containing the word of God, the other being the symbol of our redemption by Jesus. The Bride and The Groom are taking their first steps as a married couple, and the church, in the person of the priest, leads them in the way they must walk. The way is symbolized by the circle at the center of which are the Gospel and the cross of our Lord. This expresses the fact that the way of Christian living is a perfect orbit around the center of life, who is Jesus Christ our Lord.

During this ceremonial walk around the table a hymn is sung to the Holy Martyrs reminding the newly married couple of the sacrificial love they are to have for each other in marriage – a love that seeks not its own but is willing to sacrifice its all for the one loved.

The Removal of the Crowns

At the conclusion of the Ceremonial Walk, the priest removes the crowns from The Bride and The Groom and beseeches God to grant to the newlyweds a long, happy and fruitful life together. He then lifts up the Gospel and separates their joined hands reminding them that only God can separate the couple form one another.

The Wedding Favors

The sugar coated almonds (koufeta), which were placed on the tray with the crowns and which will later be offered to the guests are also symbolic. In the early days of the Church, honey dipped almonds were offered to the newlyweds by the priest. The white symbolizes purity. The egg shape represents fertility and the new life which begins with marriage. The hardness of the almond represents the endurance of marriage and the sweetness of the sugar symbolizes the sweetness of future life. The odd number of almond is indivisible, just as The Bride and The Groom shall remain undivided.  

September 8, 2007

It must be a secret

Posted in Day to day life tagged , , , , at 9:37 pm by expatdiane

Or is it? After returning from my trip to the states, I started looking around for secret antiperspirant because I was running low. In my extended search, I found that every supermarket out there, whether large or small, privately owned or chain, had removed them from the shelves. I quickly thought they must be discontinued or was it just in this part of the country? Now I am having to try out some other European brands but they are not doing the job. I will continue my search but if I do not find any, I will have to revert to buying it on line and having it shipped to me.

This brings me back to the earlier days. When I first moved here, I had no idea where to shop for cosmetics or personal hygiene items. Having no one to guide me, I had to go out and search alone. Supermarkets carried minimal cosmetics and commercials on TV of products were non existent. This lead me to believe that the cosmetics I used back home were no where to be found here. During my trips back and forth to the states, I would load my suitcase with items to bring back, items I needed that I could not find here.

One day, I heard of Hondos center the largest cosmetic chain in the country. When I first passed by the place, I noticed that they had a huge make-up department of just about every maker out there but I had no idea they had a second and third floor. It took me a total of two years before I realized they had the other floors, one of which was a personal hygiene department of things I had been searching for for so long.

September 1, 2007

Balanced or off balance

Posted in Day to day life, Medical care and costs tagged , , , , , at 6:23 pm by expatdiane

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For the last week and a half, I have been in bed suffering from a hormonal in balance. I finished a cycle of hormone replacement and it has done wonders for me. Let me tell ya, being off balance has gotta be the worst feeling! It is very difficult to walk straight, makes your head feel very heavy while with other days, it feels like a floating balloon and as far as any long term concentration, forget it! Needless to say that the majority of my time in bed was not very productive <—- never thought I’d ever say that!

When I first moved to Greece, I suffered from a hormonal in balance that was due to the climate, although at the time, I did not know it. The bitter cold we have here during December was just too much for me to bare as I have always been used to warmer weather. Since I had no idea what I was suffering from, I went ahead and told my husband that we needed to see a gynocolgist being that the symptoms appeared to be female. He got information of a doctor from someone he knew and we decided to go.

When we arrived to the doctor’s office that evening, her waiting room was completely full of women standing everywhere, as there were no places left to sit. Once the doctor showed up, all the women began following her as if they were a herd of cattle crowding in for the slaughter. Since this doctor only takes walks ins, each person had to remember who was there prior to their arrival. So the women all sat around discussing the order in which they would be seen. When our turn came, we walked into the doctor’s office and she asked what the problem was. We gave her the symptoms and her quick diagnose was a possible pregnancy. She asked me to go into the examining room, undress and wait for her to examine me. After doing so, I noticed there were no gowns to put on and that in itself made the experience all that more difficult. The room was very tiny and had a thin wall separating it from the waiting room which didn’t give a person much privacy at all. To the left of the examining table was a large glass bowl with what appeared to be medical instruments of some kind being sterilized in fluid. At that point, what ran through my mind were those old movies you see where a woman goes in to have an abortion in a cold, small room with the surgical instruments in a bowl beside the bed. I couldn’t help but wonder what decade this doctor was living in.

In the years that followed, we heard horror stories from others on the way she practiced medicine and felt that her medical license should have been revoked long ago. Sadly, to this day, she still has her practice.

July 29, 2007

Who wears short shorts?

Posted in Day to day life tagged , , , , at 9:03 pm by expatdiane

Greek women, that’s who. The theory among women here has always been less is more, but then again, that has only been when it comes to clothing. As of the summer, shorts are finally being worn out in public and it is acceptable attire. As the years have gone by, each summer, I have watched how clothing such as pants have started becoming shorter and shorter. I was very surprised when cropped pants hit the market and never thought I would see a Greek woman wear them. From there, came shorts, but those were only purchased to wear at home and never in public.

Who would have thought that it would have taken so many years. In the past, those wearing shorts out in the streets were only tourists. But don’t be fooled into thinking that we cannot figure out who is a tourist and who is actually Greek.

July 16, 2007

Smoke out

Posted in Children, Day to day life tagged , , , , , at 8:34 pm by expatdiane

The other day we went out to the opening of a new restaurant that a friend owns. I had been gone from Greece for so long that I had forgotten just how smoked filled these places can be. Just about everyone smokes but that isn’t a bad thing if they would just open a few windows and doors. What came to mind was some smoking areas at airports. You know the ones where you see smokers in a closed in smoking area standing in the midst of thick fog? Well this restaurant was similar. For the first time, I made the mistake of taking our daughter with us. In the past, I never have taken her to any type of outing for this very reason but I had been gone from the country for so long, that I had forgotten all about the way of life here.

I am a smoker myself but have always had the common sense to smoke outside away from our daughter and have never smoked around children or small babies. I didn’t smoke tonight while in the restaurant. There was more then enough smoke as it was. By the time we got out of there, I had a huge head rush and I can only imagine how our daughter felt. I just don’t understand how Greeks can take out their children to these places, smoke right beside them with no worries about their health.

Smoking is allowed just about everywhere here, even in children’s indoor play areas. I doubt this will change any time soon. People just won’t listen and enforcing laws doesn’t seem to work either.

If it weren’t for Greece hosting the 2004 Olympics, smoking and non-smoking sections would have never been adopted. Back then, I remember there would be one non-smoking table in an establishment, while the rest of the tables were all smoking ones. It was impossible for a non-smoker to eat without breathing in cigarette smoke. Now, in most place, things have changed to the point where they have more non-smoking tables and have even stated separating the areas into two sections.

The good news is that Greeks are slowly starting to understand the problems of second hand smoke. Okay, maybe not in all parts of the country or even in smaller restaurants, but they are making an effort to understand. Public service announcements have started here in the country in early 2007 regarding the dangers of second hand smoke. It might take a while, but they will eventually get it.

June 25, 2007

Energy Conservation

Posted in Day to day life tagged , , at 9:13 pm by expatdiane

During the last two weeks that I’ve been back, there has been one day each week of rolling blackouts that last for about an hour each day. We were told it was to save on electricity throughout the country. The most aggravating part of the situation is the fact that we are not told when this will occur. So you might have your air conditioner, washer or TV on and all of a sudden everything goes off. Then you have to find something to do during that time. I have learned to keep my battery charged on my laptop for this very reason. At least I will have something to do during that one dark hour.

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