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d_kakavouli

Active member
Now that I am getting older, I realize how important my Greek heritage is. So, I've made it my mission to learn more about it. One of the things I want to do is get better at Greek. And sure, I know I can use language programs - but it seems to me that learning it while in the country might be a little easier. I know that a 2 or 3 week trip won't make me fluent, but I bet it can give me a really good head start. Do you guys have any tips for how I can immerse myself in the Greek language while I am in the country?
 

ellinasgolfer0320

Well-known member
Use Greek only menus, try to read the Greek words before the English words when looking at signs, speak Greek whenever you can, go to only Greek speaking areas (these will be outside of touristy areas).

If you really focus on not using English then you'll be surprised how much you can learn in 2-3 weeks. People say that it's easiest to learn a language before 4 years old, but I disagree.
 

Deborah

Active member
Actually being there and seeking out people who only speak Greek, will help you immensely. During a conversation, you will be forced to dredge up ANY words that you know in order to get your point across. “Sign” language helps, as well as a good mutual laugh when the going gets tough. I once had no word in the spur of the moment for “refrigerator” when presented with an elegant and quite perishable gift, so I said that we had «κρύο στο δωμάτιο» (cold in the room) which was well understood, but mutually VERY funny at the time! I have poured through books and language apps. In the past I’ve brought “cheat sheets” for phrases that I know that I’ll have to use (ie. dining, hotels etc.) but the things I remember best are when I am speaking with a non-English speaker. As mentioned before, you might find such people in non-tourist areas, the villages, or even in the cities, connected with family-run operations in which not every family member speaks English. I really applaud you for wanting to preserve your very special heritage. Your effort will definitely be noticed and appreciated. Καλή τύχη!
 

k_tsoukalas

Administrator
This is all some great advice! I am kind of in a similar situation where I am brushing up on my Greek now. I learned it when I was a kid, but my skills never really evolved. I am going to try some of the things mentioned in this thread, as well!
 

Greek tradition of hanging onions on the door?

I just came from my friend's house and I saw there were onions hanging on the door! I asked them about it and learned it was a New Year's tradition. Here's what my research pulled out:

The Greek New Year is celebrated on the 1st of January, but the preparations for the celebration begin on the New Year’s Eve. As per tradition, the Greeks hang onions outside their house, balcony, or anywhere visible to attract good fortune, prosperity, and luck. The onions are hung, infused with various symbols like coins, bread, honey, and olives, representing prosperity, food, and success. This concept reminds the Greeks of their grandmothers, who hung onions outside their homes and gatherings during special occasions, especially New Year’s Eve.

Beyond the symbolic value of the onions, for Greeks, hanging onions also has medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Onions can purify the air and keep away harmful bacteria and impurities due to their sulfur compounds. Additionally, they are believed to have great health benefits and can help boost your immunity, reduce the risk of cancer, and regulate cholesterol levels.

Hanging onions is also a fun activity that the family enjoys together. Everyone gathers around and writes their wishes on the onions and ties them with a red thread, symbolizing good fortune. The onion is then hung outside the house, allowing the wishes to come true. The onions can also be collected at a later stage and used for cooking, acting as a souvenir that remains with the family for the rest of the year.

The notion of hanging onions is an ancient tradition in Greece, and the country takes pride in it. The ritual dates back to ancient Greece, where they were hung on doors and windows to keep away evil spirits and other unwanted energies. In Greece, the land of myths and legends, the onion symbolizes the new life that arises from the depths of the earth, representing hope, fertility, and growth.

Information on the Greek Tradition of Vasilopita

I love the tradition of Vasilopita. My family does something on New Year's Eve, and my church does something for a fundraiser about a week or two after New Year's. So, 'tis the season!

I never really sat down and considered why we do it. So, I decided to do some research. Here is what I learned - please feel free to chime in with anything to add!

Origins of Vasilopita

According to legend, Vasilopita dates back to the 4th century, when Saint Basil the Great was the Archbishop of Caesarea in what is now Turkey. It’s said that the archbishop wanted to distribute money to the poor in his region, but he didn’t want to favor one person over the other. So, he asked the women of the city to bake bread, each containing a coin, which would be cut and given to the people in need. Over time, the bread transformed into a cake, and the coin turned into a lucky charm in the shape of a Saint Basil medallion.

Vasilopita Ceremony

The Vasilopita ceremony is usually held on New Year’s Day, during lunch or dinner. Before cutting the cake, the head of the household blesses it with a cross, saying, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Then, they cut the cake into pieces, dedicating the first slice to Jesus Christ, the second to Saint Basil, and the third to the household. The rest of the cake is then served to the guests, with the finder of the charm receiving a special blessing.

Cultural Significance

In Greece, Vasilopita is more than just a cake, it’s a symbol of community, love, and hope. It’s an opportunity to gather with friends and family, reflect on the past year, and set intentions for the future. It’s also a way to honor Saint Basil, who is celebrated on January 1st, and to remember the less fortunate by sharing the cake with those in need. In addition, Vasilopita is a traditional Christmas gift, exchanged among coworkers or friends, often accompanied by a small card with wishes for the upcoming year.

My family usually buy the vasilopita. I have never made it... it's just as good no matter who does it! I know some ladies at church get together and make it for our reception...



greek-vasilopita.jpg

Greek Easter Family Traditions

I am curious what your family traditions are for Greek Easter. I know lent hasn't even started yet, but I've started doing some planning to make sure my family has all of its traditions all set. Sometimes it takes me a while to find ingredients for some of the foods I serve, etc.

Of course we spend Holy Week in church. We do our best to fast during Lent, and once Easter comes, it's all about serving our traditional dishes. This year I might spend part of lent in Greece to visit some religious sites.

What do you guys all do?

Gift Ideas for Greek Christenings

I've had to go to a log of Greek Christenings lately, which means that I know exactly what to do when it comes to gift. I have noticed some gifts traditionally appear. Aside from money, which is also appropriate, here are some ideas:

1. Icons
In Greek religion and culture, icons are considered not just as works of art but as holy objects that help people feel closer to God. Gifting an icon is an incredibly powerful way of expressing love and well wishes to the baby. An icon symbolizes a bond that will stay with the child for a lifetime, and it can hang in their room for years to come. It is an unusual and thoughtful gift that will make a lasting impact.

2. Silver Baby Spoon and Fork Set
A silver baby spoon and fork set is an elegant and memorable gift idea. In Greek culture, silverware is traditional, signifying the precious nature of the sacrament. It is both practical and meaningful and can be passed down through the generations.

3. Christening Outfit
If you're looking for a less traditional gift idea, consider gifting a beautiful christening outfit. This is typically taken care of by either the parents or godparents, so I would check before you buy something.

4. Book of Blessings
A book of blessings containing prayer and passages of faith is an exceptional gift. It is a sentimental and thoughtful gift that will go a long way in nurturing the baby's faith and spiritual growth. Moreover, it is something that the child can revisit years later, reminding them of the love and support they received from their family and friends at the Christening.

Getting Greek TV at home?

I have some people in my family who want to learn Greek better. I told them to start using it! Seems obvious, but it's true. One of the things we should be doing is watching Greek programing.

So, I suggested that we start watching TV from Greece. What are my best options? There are apps, you can find shows on YouTube, and there are other services. But what if I wanted TV like the way it is in Greece straight to my house?

It's the little things, like being able to watch a football game, the news, a movie, etc that I feel can really help us all improve our Greek. Any suggestions?
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