September 19, 2007

Having a child in Greece

Posted in Children, Having a child in Greece tagged , , , , , at 4:09 pm by expatdiane

If you are an American citizen and have a child in Greece from a Greek national you must register the birth locally and then again at the American Consulate. When doing so the child automatically gets dual citizenship. It is very easy as long as you have all the paperwork needed and your child must accompany you. The application only takes a few minutes to complete and your paperwork is then turned in. Within a week, you will receive your child’s American passport and within a month you will receive your child’s social security card.Paperwork needed to register your child:

1. Marriage certificate of parents.
2. Birth certificate from the Greek registrar’s office bearing the full name of the child.
3. Certified copy of all final civil divorce decree if either parent was married previously.
4. Evidence of American citizenship of the parent. If only one parent is an American citizen, evidence that the parent has met the physical presence requirement to transmit citizenship, prior to the birth of the child (the U.S. citizen parent must have been physically present in the U.S. for at least five years, two of which were after the age of 14. Documents that may serve as evidence of physical presence, includes: old passports, school transcripts, income tax records and social security itemized quarterly earning statement records.

To apply for a passport for your child, you need:

1. A signed passport application
2. Two identical photographs.
3. Parents consent

**Check with the American Consulate office for fees regarding registration**

Special notice regarding paperwork:

***A very important thing to remember when moving here. If you have ever been divorced, you must bring with you your divorce decree and be sure it is translated in Greek. This form will be needed when applying for marriage and/or anything that has to do with your child, even if that child was not from your previous marriage.

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September 13, 2007

The danger of a Parent’s Curse

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , at 9:37 am by expatdiane

Traditionally Greek families tend to be very close, and there usually exists strong bonds between all members of the near family and the extended family. Greeks place a very high respect on elders and younger children will often call elders “Aunt” or “Uncle” who are not blood relatives out of respect.

Parents have an even greater respect placed upon them. It is customary for Greek children to ask the blessing of the parents, for example in marriage as to not have it is considered dangerous.

The Greek Orthodox church places a great value in parents, and in the up bring of their children into a Christian life. In such, it is believed that disrespect towards a parent that has done a great deal for the child is considered shameful.

Each man or woman is considered to have two fathers the physical father, and God. The same can be said indirectly that each man or woman has two mothers one being the patron saint of Mothers the Virgin Mary and your mother. Therefore disrespect of your physical parent is thought to transcend to disrespect towards God.

This is where the superstition falls in. It is believed by some that a curse of a parent will take effect as it will fall on the ears of God, who will pull his protection away from the disrespectful child. This is called in Greek a “Parahorisi”.

There are two forms of Parahorisis one is for the Good as is the case with gifts from God such as being able to see Prophesy (St. John the Evangelist), smell myrrh (Jacob) etc. The other form of Parahorisis is the feared form which can result in the worst case Possession.

Either way it is believed by some that a curse will take effect if it said by a parent. For example if a parent curses a child to never be successful in their life, if the child never amounts to nothing it will be attributed to the curse.

The most dangerous curse is said to not be from a father but rather from a mother. The mother is said to have a special bond with the child as the child is carried in the mother’s womb for many months. If the mother curses the child it is believed that the child must have been extremely disrespectful, and will be punished.

In fact, in no circumstance is disrespect towards a parent acceptable. It is believed that we can pay for disrespect in this life as much as in the next. God is said to be all seeing rewarding those who are righteous and punishing those who are not. In the case of disrespect towards a parent the punishment is said to come sooner, and then later as well!

Take a look at a Greek Folk Tale which warns you to avoid the curse of a mother: The Good Bee (A tale about how a mother’s curse should be feared, and her praise most wanted.)

The Good Bee

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:35 am by expatdiane

Along time ago the Turtle, the Spider, the Wasp, and the Bee were all brothers. The Mother that they all shared became very sick and on her deathbed she called for her children. She was sure that all her children would rush to her side as she had been the best mother the world had ever seen.

Ehen the Turtle heard of his Mother’s illness he said, “I’m to busy now I’m washing my clothes my Mother can wait.” Upon hearing this the Mother became very angry and threw a curse on him saying, “May you and all your descendants where your washing board on your back.” In this manner the Turtle came to have the shell it wears on its’ back.

When the Spider heard of his Mother’s illness he said, “I’m to busy now I’m weaving a great weave my Mother can wait.” Upon hearing this the Mother became very angry and threw a curse on him saying, “May you and all your descendants weave, weave and may you never create a weave that will last for time.” In this manner the Spider came to create beautiful webs that would not last the test of time. Webs that would always to be destroyed by passer by’s or a strong wind.

When the Wasp heard of his mother’s illness he said, “I’m to busy now I’m creating something in the mud.” Upon hearing this the mother became very angry and threw a curse on him saying, “May all you create turn into poison.” In this manner the Wasp cannot create anything that appears of value.

When the Bee heard of his Mother’s illness he said, “Oh my poor dear Mother I must rush to her side she has been so kind to us.” The Bee at the time was baking bread and ran to his Mother with the flour still on his hands. The Mother upon seeing her only good child praised the Bee and from her heart she said, “May you and all your descendants create the sweetest products so that all may eat from you.” In this manner the Bee was blessed to create honey so that all may eat from its’ blessed hands.

It is said, “That nothing is more dangerous than a curse of a mother, nor nothing more lucky than her heartfelt praise.”

Tuesday

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , , at 9:34 am by expatdiane

Tuesday is considered the unluckiest day during the week for the Greek people. It was on this day on Tuesday May 29th, 1453 that the unimaginable happened and the city of Constantinople fell to the Osman Tribe, the “Ottoman Turks”. It is often said that businesses that open on this day have a black mark against them, and many Greeks who believe in this superstition will not venture into a new business on a Tuesday.

The the number 13 is considered lucky by Greeks in the setting when it stands alone as can be seen from the previous weeks writing, see The number 13.

However, when Tuesday and 13 are placed together they are considered unlucky in the Greek culture. So Greeks will watch out for Tuesday the 13th not Friday the 13th. It is the combination of the date “Tuesday” with the number “Thirteen” that is considered very unlucky to the Greek people

The number 13

Posted in Superstitions tagged , , , , , , at 9:33 am by expatdiane

The number 13 on its own is not an unlucky number in Greek culture. The opposite is often considered true by many Greeks, that is that the number thirteen is considered to be lucky. Some areas in Greece say that the number 13 represents the 12 apostles and Christ with Christ being the 13th member. The number 13 cannot be that unlucky as we should not forget that Greece won 13 medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Greece’s best medal showing ever!

In most western cultures Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day, to Greeks this day is not considered unlucky. Greeks who have accepted this as an unlucky day are Greeks of the diaspora who have integrated a non-Greek superstition into their superstitions.

In the Greek culture it is Tuesday the 13th of the month which is unlucky. It is the combination of the date “Tuesday” (: on a Tuesday of May, 1453 Ad, Constantinople (Istandbul) fell on the hands of the Turks) with the number “Thirteen” that is considered very unlucky to the Greek people.

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 11, 2007

An Orthodox Wedding

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

crowns.jpg

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.  

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.