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Lesson Transcript

Maria: Welcome back to GreekPpod101.com I’m Maria!
Iro: IEímaie i Iróo!
Maria: There is a big bonus to making Greek your adopted culture, and that is that you get double the holidays!
Iro: Yes, there are a lot of exciting celebrations in Greece.
Maria: Yes, and now you can adopt them as your own too!
Iro: So today we are going to learn about five holidays that are near and dear to the hearts of Greek people.
Maria: I think the first and foremost one is very obvious.
Iro: Yes, the most important holiday for Greek people is Easter.
Maria: It is one of the most important Christian celebrations.
Iro: Yes, especially for the Orthodox believers.
Maria: It is quite a festival to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Iro: Easter falls on different dates depending on which Christian branch you belong to. It usually falls between March and April, and the exact date is decided by three factors. First, Greek Easter is based on the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian one. Second, Easter must be after the Jewish Passover. And finally, it must fall on the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox.
Maria: Wow, sounds like a hassle! So what is Easter called in Greek then?
Iro: It is called Πάσχα (Páscha). And people generally get a four-day holiday, starting on Good Friday and ending with Easter Monday.
Maria: Hey, that’s pretty good.
Iro: Yes, we need the days off because Greek people will travel back to their hometowns and villages to spend the holiday with their families. It’s very important.
Maria: The Greeks spend most holidays with their families.
Iro: Yes, family is very important to the Greek people.
Maria: Now, there are so many traditions and rituals associated with Easter, Can you demystify them for us?
Iro: Well, as most Christian cultures know, Easter is the time when Christ resurrected, so this holiday dates back as long as Christianity.
Maria: That’s quite far back.
Iro: Yes. Generally, families gather on Easter, go to church, and have a big feast.
In Greece, the festivities start on Good Friday when people go to the churches to see a holy ritual performed by priests in which the priests take down the icon of Christ, wrap it in linen, and finally, put it in a great casket covered in flowers. This symbolizes the tomb of Christ. After the ritual, the bier is taken through the town or village with people lamenting the death of Christ.
Maria: That explains all the people!
Iro: Yeah, and on Saturday evening, everyone goes to church carrying with them unlit candles. At midnight, the priest announces the resurrection of Christ and lets the people light their candles of the Holy Flame taken from Christ's nativity cave in Jerusalem. After this, everybody goes home for a meal as the fast is over.
Maria: But the biggest celebration falls on the Sunday right?
Iro: Yes, Easter Sunday is a day for friends and family when they all gather and have a great feast.
Maria: And they eat a LOT of food, right.
Iro: The traditional food is lamb on a spit! Mmmm…delicious!
Maria: I remember the first time I saw the lamb cooking… I had nightmares afterwards.
Iro: Haha, I guess seeing the original state of your food can be quite grotesque sometimes. But the taste makes up for it, right?
Maria: Right! Oh, and what’s the deal with red eggs on Easter?
Iro: Ahh, you ask good questions my friend. This is actually one of my favorite activities on Easter. We dye eggs red to represent the blood of Christ. But you can’t eat the eggs until you have a little game of egg cracking! Whoever wins by having a whole egg at the end, will get all the luck that year. Cracking eggs is meant to symbolize Christ breaking from the Tomb. I am, of course, the egg-cracking master!
Maria: I always lose.
Iro: And finally, we have a special sweet bread called tsoyréki. This bread represents the light given to Christians by Christ's resurrection.
Maria: So much symbolism!
Iro: Sure!
Maria: So do you say anything during Easter?
Iro: Yes, we say Χριστός Aνέστη (Christós Anésti) which means, "Christ has resurrected."
Maria: Right, what's next?
Iro: Yes, probably the second most important days in Greece are Christmas and New Year's, again, two very important Christian holidays.
Maria: Yes and in Greek, it’s,
Iro: Χριστούγεννα (Christoýgenna), Christmas, and Πρωτοχρονιά (Protochroniá) New years.
Maria: As I’m sure most of you know, these two holidays fall on December 25 and January 1.
Iro: Yes, Christmas, as in all Christian churches, is a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. And New Year's is to celebrate the beginning of the new year as well as to celebrate St Basil who was one of the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is remembered for his kindness and generosity to the poor.
Maria: I think New Year's is perhaps even more festive and important than Christmas.
Iro: Yes, it is the main day for gift-giving and for stories of St Basil's kindness to children and the stories of how he would come in the night and leave gifts for the children in their shoes.
Maria: Sounds familiar.
Iro: Haha, well, in other Christian branches, Santa Clause is the celebrated saint on Christmas. In Greece, he comes on New Year's!
Maria: Do you say anything special?
Iro: Yeah, on Christmas we say Καλά Χριστούγεννα ("Kalá Christoýgenna") "Merry Christmas," and on New Year, we say Καλή χρονιά ("Kalí Chroniá") "Happy New Year!"
Maria: Great, so now we can be merry with everyone on Christmas and happy on New Year!
Iro: Sure can!
Maria: So what happens on these days?
Iro: Well, Christmas is normally a relatively non-commercial holiday, but it has adopted many of the traditions of Christmas we are familiar with today, such as Christmas trees and decorations. Children sing "carols" ("kálanda") and families come together and have a big meal.
Maria: The Greeks sure like their family feasts!
Iro: Yes. Food is very important to the Greek people during festive times. And we have a lot of it!
Maria: I guess it’s understandable during Christmas after forty days of fasting!
Iro: Yeah. I guess nowadays, not too many people fast though. And many old traditions have changed to new modern ones.
Maria: Like what?
Iro: Well, we used to have roast pork as the main dish, but now I guess people are a bit more concerned with health so most people have turkey.
Maria: I had roast pork once on Christmas, and it just didn’t feel like Christmas dinner.
Iro: To me it’s kind of the opposite. In my family, we always have traditional roast pork, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without it!
Maria: What I like the most about Christmas and New Year's foods are the sweets!
Iro: Yes, we have many traditional cakes and sweets like melomakárona and koyrampiédes! Melomakárona are honey-dipped cookies, often stuffed with nuts. Koyrampiédes are cookies dusted with powdered sugar.
Mara: Yummy!
Iro: But the most important food on Christmas is "Christópsomo" ("Christ Bread"). It is a round loaf, decorated on the top with a cross, around which people will also make symbols shaped in dough that represent whatever it is they do in life.
Maria: And New Year's?
Iro: The bread we have on New Year's is called "Vasilópita," or "St. Basil's cake." A coin is placed inside the cake and the cake is cut and distributed in a specific order. Whoever gets the coin will be lucky for the next year!
Maria: Have you ever gotten the coin?
Iro: I’m a master at cracking eggs, but quite horrible at finding coins.
Maria: Haha, well, better luck next year, ey!
Iro: We’ll see. The third most important day in Greece is on March 25. This is Greece’s Independence Day.
Maria: This day was a great turning point in Greek history, wasn’t it?
Iro: Yes, it’s celebrated for two reasons. The biggest one being the declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire after being occupied for nearly four-hundred years!
Maria: And the second one is that March 25 was the day the archangel Gabriel appeared before Mary and announced that she was pregnant with the Divine Child.
Iro: Yes, the Greeks refused to be converted and stayed true to their religion, language, and sense of identity.
Maria: And after hundreds of years of oppression from the Ottoman Empire, Greece finally broke free and overthrew its oppressor.
Iro: In 1821, Bishop Germanós of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agía Lávra in Peloponnese, and one more revolution started against the Turks.
Maria: The war lasted for nine years until independence was declared!
Iro: And so on this day, the streets are filled with parades and celebrations.
There is a school flag parade in every town and village and a big armed forces parade in Athens.
Maria: Yeah, it’s crazy! It was the first time I ever saw a tank!
Iro: Really? The second reason to celebrate this day is to celebrate the Archangel Gabriel bringing the news to the Virgin Mary!
Maria: What a coincidence, hey!
Iro: Yea! This is why this day is of such great importance to the Greeks.
Maria: They gained their independence as well as affirmation to their religion!
Iro: Ok, moving on to the last two most important holidays in Greece!
Maria: Oooh, which one is number four?
Iro: Coming in at fourth place we have Óchi Day celebrated on October 28!
Maria: Óchi Day? What does that mean?
Iro: "Óchi" means "No" in Greek! This was the day the Greeks said "No" to Mussolini's request to allow Italian troops into Greece at the beginning of World War II!
Maria: So they celebrate for saying, "No?"
Iro: Yes.
Maria: Interesting. Just, "No?"
Iro: Yeah!
Maria: Hmm.
Iro: And this helped Greece maintain neutrality!
Maria: But they were still invaded by the Italians, right.
Iro: Yeah.
Maria: But they drove them back.
Iro: Yeah.
Maria: How many times have you used, "Yes" by now? I thought this was "No" Day?
Iro: You’ve got to be positive!
Maria: Right. So how is hÓchi Day celebrated?
Iro: Well, today we celebrate it with lavish military parades that march down the main boulevards of Athens and Thessaloníki.
Maria: Ooooh.
Iro: Soldiers, tanks, and armored vehicles parade through the cities with pride.
Maria: Oh. Sounds scary.
Iro: I guess, but everyone is used to it by now so we enjoy the show!
Maria: Okay, I think we should move on to number five.
Iro: Sure. At fifth place, we have the Assumption of the Virgin Mary! This is celebrated on August 15.
Maria: More religion, hey. So what’s the Assumption about?
Iro: Well, this is the day the Virgin Mary was taken up to the heavens.
Maria: This is quite a big holiday, isn’t it? I remember getting calls from my friends congratulating me on this day, but I just couldn’t figure out why… My birthday is in February!
Iro: Well, in Greek, the Virgin Mary is called Maria! So that’s why. On this day, we celebrate Our Lady, and all those with her name!
Maria: So like a name's day?
Iro: Yeah. But this day wasn’t an official holiday until Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption dogma in 1950!
Maria: But it had been celebrated before that, right?
Iro: Yeah, since Christianity became the official religion!
Maria: So, what do you do on this day?
Iro: Traditionally, the Feast of the Assumption is generally a meatless one. The main foods are fruits, vegetables, grains, and herbs.
Maria: And do I get any presents?
Iro: No.
Maria: What happened to staying positive!
Iro: It went away with the previous holiday…
Maria: Great. This was just a sampling of all the holidays and festivals Greece has in store for you. Good for you for starting your Greek journey with us here at GreekPod101.com, where you will get double the holidays for one low price.
Iro: Geia sas!
Maria: Bye!