Nine Greek Traditions To Celebrate For Greek American Heritage Month

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated November 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you or someone in your family has Greek heritage, you may be familiar with famous Greek customs celebrated every March during Greek American Heritage Month. From traditions surrounding food to Greek Orthodox religious traditions, below are nine ways to celebrate Greek American Heritage Month this year. 

Discover Nine Ways To Celebrate Greek American Heritage Month

Nine Ways To Celebrate Greek American Heritage Month

Below are nine suggestions for celebrating your family and heritage this March. 

Celebrate Greek Independence Day

Greek Independence Day falls within Greek American Heritage Month—on March 25. Greek people have been celebrating Greek Independence Day since the end of the Greek Revolution in 1921. Before that, Greece had been occupied by the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years. 

In the 21st century, Greek Independence Day is celebrated worldwide— including by Greek Americans in the US. For example, Boston, New York, and many cities in Florida have Greek Independence Day parades. A common Greek tradition for Greek Independence Day is having children march in a parade dressed in traditional Greek costumes while waving the Greek flag. To celebrate this Heritage Month, you can join in by learning more about local events and sharing history with those you love. 

Partake In Plate Smashing

A smashed plate at a Greek American celebration signifies a successful party. Plate smashing started as a tradition to rid events of a concept called "the evil eye." Some individuals previously felt that having too much fun would draw in unhealthy energy or the "evil eye."

The "evil eye" is a belief that dates back to ancient Greece. In Greek, the evil eye is called μάτι (mati). Mati is believed to be the evil spirit people spread by looking at someone with jealousy, anger, or judgment. Even a single look from someone with an "evil eye" is believed to curse the person they look at, often unbeknownst to them.

Smashing a plate indicates that no more negative energy is needed, as it already exists. Plate smashers are said to be tricking the evil eye and keeping the positive energy alive. 

Getty / Maskot

Visit A Greek Orthodox Church

Between 81% and 90% of Greek Americans identify as Greek Orthodox, so many Greek traditions are rooted in Christian culture and religion. Visiting a local Orthodox church may deepen your understanding of Greek culture if you follow this religion. To some Greek Americans and Greeks worldwide, the church is a place to come together, celebrate, and pray. 

You may notice that the Greek Orthodox cross looks slightly different than the crosses adorning other churches. The cross generally has three horizontal cross beams rather than one. The middle bar represents the cross Christ was nailed to, and the tilted bottom bar points the way to heaven and hell.  There are many traditions and celebrations in the Greek Orthodox Church, like celebrating each name day. 

Celebrate A Name Day

Before most Greek people celebrated birthdays, they celebrated "name days," or the celebration of the person you were named after. Many Greek Americans are named after Greek saints, martyrs, and holy people from the Greek Orthodox religion. Each person's name day may fall on the day of the holy person's date of death. For example, if your name were Lydia, March 23 would be your name day. This name-day comes from Lydia of Thyartira, who is believed to be the first European to convert to Christianity. 

Make Christopsomo With Your Family

The tradition of making Christopsomo, which translates to Christ Bread, is often reserved for Christmas Eve, but it may be a fun tradition to try for Greek American Heritage Month. Christopsomo bread is adorned with a cross and includes walnuts to symbolize life and fertility. The bread is seen as an offering to bring well-being, health, and happiness to a household. The leftover dough from the Christopsomo bread is traditionally made into smaller loaves to give to the bread maker's godchildren. 

Read The Future Through Coffee Stains

You may have heard of reading tea leaves, but Greeks practice the art of reading coffee grounds instead. The tradition of Greek coffee ground readings is an ancient art. If you are part of this culture, you can follow these steps: 

  1. Make yourself a Greek coffee. American coffee may not have enough sediment.  
  2. Swish around what's left in the bottom of your cup after drinking. Swish it three times in a clockwise circle. 
  3. Turn the cup upside down and leave it for a few minutes to dry. 
  4. Flip your cup upright. 
  5. If a big chunk of coffee grounds is left on the saucer, it is said that your current troubles will soon disappear.

You can also learn how to interpret the residue left behind by reading a book on this tradition or speaking to those in your family who have practiced it. If you're unsure about traditional interpretations, you might invite a Greek friend who has experience reading coffee grounds. Traditionally, this is a tradition passed down from grandmothers to their grandchildren.  

Listen To Laïkó Music

Laïkó (λαϊκό) is the popular music of the Greek people. Laïkó evolved from traditional ancient Greek music and added pop elements. Laïkó can be fun to combine modern popular music with traditional Greek instruments and sounds. 

One of the most famous laïkó musicians was Stelios Kazantzidis, with hits like "Everything Is a Lie, a Breath, a Sigh" (Duo portes exei h zoh). A few other popular laïkó artists are singer Nikos Xanthopoulos, composer Mimis Plessas, and lyricist George Zambetas. 

Learn The Zeibekiko

While playing laïkó, you might try the traditional Greek dance: Zeibekiko. The Zeibekiko dance gets its name from the Zeybeks, a militia of Greeks who lived in Smyrna between the 17th and 20th centuries. This dance was initially seen as a time for men to be able to express their feelings and the emotional pain they felt from battles and fighting within the Ottoman Empire. 

The dance is entirely improvised, focusing on feelings over rules, and it is generally danced to the tune of laïkó hits. Other fun Greek traditional dances to celebrate Greek American Heritage Month include Kalamatiano, Hasapiko, Syrto, and Tsamiko.

Discover Nine Ways To Celebrate Greek American Heritage Month

Celebrate With Hippocratic Care 

One Greek philosopher studied mental healthcare and the best treatments for symptoms like anxiety, fear, and depression. His name was Hippocrates. Hippocrates began studying trauma and mental healthcare during the wars in ancient Greece. He came to believe that mental health and physical health were interdependent. In an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, researchers say that Hippocrates believed "treatment that included physical exercise, massage, and walks [were] considered necessary to restore health, the well-being of the soul and the inner peace of man." 

Therapists worldwide use Hippocrates's holistic well-being approach in their practices in a field known as integrative psychology. If holistic health is valuable to you, a therapist trained in integrative psychology may be suitable for treating stress and mental health conditions. Researchers have found integrative psychiatry highly effective in a variety of areas, including in reducing hospital readmissions for early-phase psychosis, according to an EPA study.

Get Support With Online Therapy

If you face barriers to therapy, like cost or distance, you can also try an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. Through an online platform, you can be matched with an integrative psychologist who understands your interest in finding holistic health. Studies indicate that online therapy is as effective as in-person counseling and may be more effective when treating conditions like depressive disorders. 


Greek American Heritage Month allows Greek Americans to celebrate their culture and ideals. There are many ways to celebrate this month, but consider contacting a counselor for support if you're experiencing mental health challenges.

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