Saturday, 2 April 2011

Greek Religious Mannerisms

Greeks are very religious people, but it extends further than just going to church every Sunday and fasting every Easter. 

Have you ever been in a car full of Greeks or been driving next to one, and you suddenly see them all simultaneously and speedily start waving their arms from their heads to their chests, right shoulder and left shoulder, 3 times in a cross motion? Well don't worry, it's totally normal! We do this cross or "stavro" whenever we pass by a Greek Orthodox Church.
So if someone in the car isn't doing their stavro as they drive past the church, they might be in for a slap around the head to remind them to do it! It's a respect thing, and you feel strangely guilty if you don't do it... 

The stavro is also done whenever someone says something which you hope will never happen, or don't want to be cursed/jinxed. Here's a good example:

We also perform our own exorcisms (taken from the Greek word Exorismos). That's right... if we feel there is evil surrounding us, for example if things keep going wrong or we have had bad news, it's time to bless the house. We light up a kapnisis which is has a few lumps of coal and special dried leaves which burn creating a holy smoke. We run to each room in the house and do 3 anticlockwise circles around each religious icon in the room with it. People can be blessed also; they need to wave their hand 3 times over the smoke in an anticlockwise motion too, thus blowing the smoke towards them. Then of course, they do their stavro 3 times! (The symbolism of everything done 3 times, is for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in case you were wondering!) This ritual is also performed on peoples' birthdays and other special occasions.

Look out for the next post which involves being woken up by your yiayia blessing you with holy water...

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