Greece is a country of great interests and diverse cultures, influenced by its location, at the junction between the East and the West and by the many occupations of the Greek people throughout history.
In general, the Greeks are particularly proud of their culture and speak of their country with an intense passion, feeling that the culture in Greece is a definition of their national and ethnic belonging. Traditions, religion, music, language, food and wines are the major composites of the culture in Greece and constitute the base for those who wish to visit and understand today's country.
Greek Culture: Aspects of the culture in Greece
Below we propose information about the main aspects of the Greek culture today: language, traditions, religion, food, music and more.
Language constitutes one of the most important elements of the Greek culture. Modern Greek language is a descendant of the Ancient Greek language and is affiliated to the part of the Greek or Hellenic branch of Indo-European. The first written Greek was found on baked mud tablets, in the remains of the Knossos Palace of Crete island. Linear A and Linear B are the two most ancient types of written language in Greece.
Greece is a country with a very rich history from Bronze age, to classical period, Roman period, Ottoman period and more. It also famous worldwide for many famous people and their actions throughout centuries. This section proposes information about the history of Greece but provides also information about the significance of the flags, a list with most famous archaeological sites, historical monuments and Unesco Sites in Greece.
Geographically Greece is a mountainous peninsula surrounded by water. Due to the 13,676 km of coastline and the 2,000 Greek islands, of which only 168 are inhabited, the Greeks developed since the ancient times a strong connection with the sea. This is why the Greeks have a long tradition in navigation, ship building and marine trade, which historically led to interconnection with other people. As the country is located on the corner spot between Europe, Asia and Africa, the Greek culture is actually a mixture of European and Eastern elements.
Traditions & customs
Traditions in Greece and Greek Islands either have a religious character or come from paganism. Furthermore, most of the traditions and festivals still followed and celebrated today are religious. That is why so many panygiria are organized in the country, which are actually religious celebrations of saints followed by traditional music and dance in the square of the village. These panigiria are a strong element of the Greek culture and take place all year round, especially in summer.
Religion plays an important role in the understanding of daily culture. The 98% of the Greeks are Christians Orthodox. The rest of the population are Muslims, Roman Catholics and Jewish. Greece and Russia are the only countries to have such a big proportion of Christians Orthodox. The Orthodox Church forms the third largest branch of Christianity, after the Roman Catholics and the Protestants.
The Greek music is of unbelievable diversity due to the creative Greek assimilation of different influences of the Eastern and Western culture of Asia and Europe. Music in Greece has a long history dating from the ancient times, during which poetry, dancing and music were inseparable and played an important part in the ancient Greek everyday life and culture.
Food and wine
The Greek cuisine is famous for its good quality products and the amazing taste of its food and wines. Some dishes are the same everywhere in Greece, whereas some others are local culinary specialties. The same dishes can be cooked differently or with different ingredients depending on the region. Food is an important part of the Greek culture.
Many products are characteristic of Greece, including various types of cheese (feta, metsovone and formaella), virgin olive oil from Lesvos, Crete and Laconia, capper from Santorini, potatoes from Naxos, citrus fruits from Peloponnese and others like honey, wine, spices, nutes and more. These fresh culinary products are widely used in cooking and constitute strong elements of the local culture.
Traditional recipes of Greece are usually easy but require special products that are grown in the Greek land. Baklava, moussaka, pastichio, gemista and kleftiko are the most famous Greek recipes. The Greek cuisine, a characteristic element of the culture, has been largely incluenced by the French, Italian and Turkish cuisine.
You can see a church in almost every plot of land in Greece and around all the Greek islands. In fact, you can see churches in the most bizarre spots, even inside caves and gorges. These churches vary in size and style. The town squares usually have large churches, while the countryside is dotted with small, lovely chapels. The style is mainly Byzantine, while in the Cyclades islands most churches are painted in white and blue. The evolution in the style of churches is a characteristic feature of the culture.
There are many museums around Greece that mostly host archaeological findings or folk items. The most interesting are the archaeological museums, that host exhibits from the prehistoric till the Roman times. The New Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Archaeological Museum of Olympia and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum are worth a visit. Occasionally, there are also some theme museums around the country to present the local culture and history.
The architecture in Greece has gone through many phases: from the Doric and Ionic style of the temples in the Classical times, to the Byzantine style of the churches and the Neoclassical style of recent years. Every architectural style shows the culture and traditions of that era. The architecture in villages and islands is very different from the architecture in large cities.
Most festivals in Greece take place in summer. They can be religious festivals (panigiri) on the occasion of the name day of the protector saint in a village or town, or they can also be cultural festivals with various events. These festivals constitute an integral part of the local culture and attract many visitors.
Many cultural events take place in Greece all year round. Particularly famous is the Athens Epidaurus Greek Festival, with events in the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the Herodeion Theatre in Athens and other venues. Such festivals with music concerts, theatre performances, lectures and custom revivals take place in all Greek islands and towns, usually in summer, presenting the local culture and occasionally hosting international participations.
Nights in Greece are a delight. A summer night out usually starts with a dinner at the many taverns and restaurants in the Greek islands and continue with a soft drink in a lounge bar or with a crazy night in a club till the sunrise. It is almost part of the Greek culture to have dinner in a traditional tavern during holidays. Some places known for their nightlife are Mykonos, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and more.
Cafe & Kafenion
Going out for a coffee is a special habitude for the Greeks, a strong part of their culture. The average coffee meeting for a Greek is about 1 and half hour. The Greeks get together over a coffee and chat loudly. In the village squares, you will see the traditional type of cafeteria in Greece, the kafenion. Mostly old men go there to drink their traditional Greek coffee, chat and play cards.
Various cultures have lasted for periods of time throughout history. Some have continued on a fairly unbroken line from inception such as the Chinese. Others have begun, been raided by invaders and adopted new cultures, been sent into devolution by disease or natural disasters or other occurrences. Greece may be seen to have gone through this. The Greek culture survives for us in writing but it has made an impact on our modern ways of thinking through each of the fields presented in this essay below.
The Greeks lived very differently than the way we do today. While they were beginning to gain much of the scientific knowledge that we have today, they lacked the technology and the tools to prove many of their beliefs. As a result, they were sometimes wrong. One way that this can be evidenced is in their attribution of many natural phenomena to the working of their pantheon of deities. These gods and goddesses had very petty conflicts in which humans were often involuntarily embroiled which would result in wars and pestilence or occasionally piece and prosperity. The impact of the myths of Greece on modern life can be seen in our entertainment. Their stories are often referenced in our own films and books.
Despite being so easily given to mythological explanations the Greek philosophers laid a foundation in logic that is at the backbone of some of our most lofty professions, like law. Socrates and Plato were some of the first to apply sound reasoning to situations in order to seek out truth rather than to continue repetition of the most popular lies. This is something that even then was capable of getting someone put in jail or executed so such early philosophers risked much in pursuit of their ideals.
Much of what we know today about the ancient world comes from the records that these people kept. This is not to say that these records were perfect. Far from it. However they are often accurate in ways that modern observers take a while to realize. Cities have risen and fallen over the centuries. Sometimes to the point where hardly any sign remains that they were once there. The legend of Atlantis remains to be proven however.
Modern Greece has many issues to contend with of a financial nature. This should not take away from what the region has contributed to our current way of life.