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.
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."
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.
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:
- Make yourself a Greek coffee. American coffee may not have enough sediment.
- Swish around what's left in the bottom of your cup after drinking. Swish it three times in a clockwise circle.
- Turn the cup upside down and leave it for a few minutes to dry.
- Flip your cup upright.
- 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.
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.
Why do we celebrate Greek Heritage Month?
The purpose of Greek Heritage Month is to educate the public on Greek American history and celebrate Greek ancestry in the United States. It is intended as a measure to preserve Greek culture and language after immigration. Greek History Month highlights contributions from Greek immigrants to the language, arts, culture, and history of the United States.
How do you celebrate Greek American Heritage Month?
You can celebrate Greek American Heritage Month by donating to the Hellenic American Project, a non-profit organization that documents the Greek American community in the United States, learning about the Greek language, reading Greek and Greek-inspired works, watching Greek and Greek-inspired films, and otherwise educating yourself via the Internet about Greek culture and Greek immigrant culture in the United States.
Why is Greek Heritage Month in March?
Greek Heritage Month (also called Hellenic Heritage Month) is celebrated in March to coincide with Greek Independence Day on March 25.
When did Greeks go to America?
The first recorded Greek immigrant to America was Don Doroteo Teodoro, who was a sailor with the Narvaez expedition and landed in present-day St. Petersburg, FL, in 1528. The Strait of Juan de Fuca was named after the Greek captain who sailed under the Spanish banner in 1592 searching for the Northwest Passage, but instead landed in this short strait that now defines part of the Canada-United States border.
In the late 1700s, a group of roughly 500 Greeks attempted to settle in New Smyrna Beach, FL, but were unsuccessful, leading to their relocation to St. Augustine, FL, in 1776. Greek immigrants were common from that point forward, but especially between 1945 and 1982, when, fleeing the effects of WWII and the Greek Civil War, roughly 211,000 Greeks immigrated.
Greek community and culture have begun to flourish in the United States with the popularity of media in the Greek language internationally.
What is the symbol of Greek heritage?
While there is no one symbol of Greek heritage, many Hellenic people will use the national emblem of Greece – a blue crest with a white cross, surrounded by laurel branches – to indicate their heritage. They may also fly the Greek flag, which is blue and white striped with a white cross on a blue background in the top left corner.
What do Greek people say to celebrate?
A common Greek language well-wish is “Hronia polla (χρόνια πολλά),” meaning “many years” or, as a closer English equivalent phrase, “many happy returns.” It’s commonly used for celebrations like birthdays and holidays. You might also use “Kai tou hronou (και του χρόνου),” meaning “and next year.”
What is an important celebration in Greece?
There are many important cultural celebrations in Greece that are a part of people’s everyday lives. The Athens Epidaurus Festival is held throughout the summer in Athens, where music, dance, and theater that date back to as early as CE 161 are held. The August Moon Festival is held at more than 100 historic Greek performance spaces, where classical theater, poetry readings, and star-gazing events, among other free events, happen on the night of the full moon in August.
What is the celebration and tradition in Greece?
There are many culturally significant celebrations and traditions in Greece, including traditional Christian and pagan holidays as well as personal traditions. Name days, for example, are days that are dedicated to a particular saint or martyr and are celebrated if a person shares a name with them.
Why do Greek people like to celebrate?
The lives of Greek people are often deeply entrenched in community and religion. The nation is and has historically been made up of many smaller, tight-knit communities spread across the geography of the area rather than a single, overarching national identity. This, paired with the love-thy-neighbor teachings of the Greek Orthodox church, tends to result in a people that enjoy community gatherings and events for celebration.
What is the most famous Greek festival?
One of the most important celebrations of the year in the lives of Greek Orthodox Christians is Easter, which can last from the beginning of Holy Week through the entire Easter church season and is often more influential than Christmas.
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