Greece is a country characterized by a remarkable history and a rich cultural heritage. In ancient times, Greece played a crucial role in early civilization that proved to be monumental in shaping both European and world history. At present, it successfully maintains its distinct culture in the dynamic modern society.
Greece is a country with the land area of 131, 957 square kilometers (“Countries” 302). Its capital is Athens, which is also one of its major cities (“Countries” 302). Other major cities include Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Patras, Iraklion and Larissa (U.S. Department of State). In 2005, the Greek population was estimated at 11,104,000, ten percent of which consists of immigrants (U.S. Department of State). Three million of the said population is situated in Greater Athens (U.S. Department of State).
In terms of religion, the majority of the Greek citizens are members of the Greek Orthodox Church (“Countries” 302). Other religions present in Greek society include Islam, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (“Countries” 302). Greece is characterized by an interesting and diverse culture which is established on customs and traditions, religion, food and wine, and music. Religion and traditions are closely linked, since the latter is usually based and anchored on the former. Ironically, the Greeks also believe in superstitions.
One of the Greek traditions still honored today at is the name day celebration (Greeka). The Greeks give more importance to name days than birthdays; those who share a name with a celebrated saint also celebrate in a particular day of the year. During a certain person’s “name day,” family and friends visit to give wishes and gifts. At the house, the hostess provides food for the guests (Greeka).
Another Greek tradition is the Carnival or the “Apokries” (Greeka). This feast occurs within a two week period; it starts on Sunday of Meat Fare and ends on “Clean Monday” or Kathari Deutera (Greeka). “Clean Monday” or Kathari Deutera is the first day of Lent; at this time, families usually gather for a picnic and kite flying. The Carnival is believed to have originated from paganism, and is derived from the merrymaking associated with the god Dionysus (Greeka). This tradition is characterized by people in costumes partying in the streets. A Carnival parade is held in Patra, where the festivities take place from day until night (Greeka).
Easter is also significant for the Greeks. In fact, it is considered more important than Christmas (Greeka). Easter is a celebration that brings Greek families together. Greek women are tasked to color the eggs red using dye; Godparents also give the children new things, such as shoes and clothes (Greeka). Even the houses and streets are prepared for this occasion, as both are whitewashed for Easter. In addition, the Greek family gathers for a feast of roasted lamb, wine and appetizers (Greeka).
Music also plays a crucial role in Greek culture. Music in Greece began as early as Antiquity, as it was an essential part of Greek civilization (Greeka). The best example would be that of Greek tragedy, in which music was one of its key elements. The demise of Ancient Greece also resulted in the decline of Greek music. Fortunately, Greek music reemerged in the 19th century (Greeka).
Folk songs also play a large role in Greek history. The folk songs originated from ancient times (Greeka). These songs are categorized into two: akritic and klephtic styles of music. The former originated in 9th century AD. This kind of music conveyed the experiences and hardships of the “akrites,” or the Byzantine Empire guards (Greeka). The latter was produced by “kleftes” or those who fought against the Ottoman Empire.
Even though music is an expression of the gruesome period in Greek history, it also included love songs. This style of music was believed to have originated between the latter part of the Byzantine era and the early part of the Greek Revolution (Greeka). Instruments that accompanied the folk songs include the bagpipe, tambourine and lute, just to name a few. Other important elements of the Greek musical tradition are cantadha, nisiotika and rebetiko (Greeka).
Food and wine are also significant in Greek culture (Greeka). Greece is known for their appetizers and wines. Mezedes, or Greek appetizers, are crucial in Mediterranean culture, as it promotes friendship through the sharing of food. Some of the recognized Greek appetizers include the Greek salad or Horiatiki Salata, Tiropitakia, Htapodi and Feta cheese.
Greece also produces wines. It is therefore no surprise that Greek alcohol such as Tsipouro and Ouzo are a main component in Greek culture. Also, meat is almost always present in Greek main dishes, while their soups are very much preferred during the winter season. The Greeks are also famous for the herbs and spices used in their dishes (Greeka).
The history of Greece is extensive and thorough. Greek culture began in the classical era, and proved to be a crucial element in the development of civilization in general (Pounds 326). The Greek island of Crete was the location for the Minoan civilization, the earliest in Europe (“Countries” 303). Greece is also home to the city-states, whose prosperity brought the development of culture in aspects such as philosophy, literature, politics, architecture and art (“Countries” 303-304). Greek civilization was at its peak under the control of Philip II of Macedonia and his son, Alexander the Great. However, the Greek civilization declined when the Roman civilization emerged (“Countries” 304).
Greek history also includes several wars. Civil War erupted following the occupation of German forces from 1941 to 1944 (“Countries” 304). Then, under the leadership of Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos, Greece officially became a part of World War I in 1917 (Pounds 328).
The history of Greece was also marked by the constant change in form of government. From 1925 to 1935, Greece was a republic (Pounds 328). Then, Greece became a constitutional monarchy (Pounds 328). In 1967, the monarchy was deposed by a military coup (“Countries” 304). The republic was restored in 1973, which lasted for only a year. In 1975, democratic elections were held once again. Six years later, Andreas Papandreou became the first socialist Prime Minister of Greece. Then, in 1990, a Democratic Party member named Constantine Mitsotakis was elected at the same post (“Countries” 304).
With its extensive historical background, Greece remains a crucial part of world civilization. With its customs and traditions, Greece keeps its diverse and unique culture in modern day society. Indeed, Greece remains relevant at present through its history and culture.
Bateham, Graham, and Victoria Egan, eds. Illustrated Guide to Countries of the World. Australia: RD Press, 1996.
Greeka. 17 March 2008 ;http://www.greeka.com/greece-culture/;.
Pounds, Norman J.G. “Greece.” Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia. 21 vols. New York: Lexicon Publications, Inc., 1992.
U.S. Department of State. 17 March 2008 ;https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3395.htm;.