Culture and Greece
When I think of Greece, thousands of years of history and achievements come into my mind. It’s really impressive how many changes have happened though, and how culture has evolved. Greece has always been a place of diverse culture and that particular interaction helped us as a nation form a common native culture today.
This whole process took centuries to be completed and was influenced greatly by the location of Greece, at the junction between West and East, as well as the various occupations of the Greek people in human history.
The importance of language
If you asked me what is the most important element of culture in Greece, I would answer that it’s our language, without second thoughts. The modern language we are using today is a descendant of the ancient language, still maintaining its main grammar and syntax structures, a bit simplified, and the vast vocabulary that has been adapted end expended even more in the course of history.
Greek survived as a language through centuries and became the official language of the Roman Empire and the most commonly speaking language at one time. It was then selected as the official language of the Byzantine Empire and although it declined in popularity, it still remained one of the most important languages in Europe and the middle East. The fact that the language was used by so many non-native populations, eventually brought many cultural elements to Greek culture, many of which were embodied and turned into “native”.
The impact of religion in culture
I would also say that Religion also plays a very significant role in the formation and understanding of culture. This is certainly the case for Greece. There’s been a radical change that influenced Greek culture when Christianity begun to spread around Europe in the first centuries AD. Up to that point, the polytheistic religion of the Olympian Gods was a vital element of Greek culture.
Although many Greeks converted to Christianity in the ages that followed, the situation was always rather controversial, causing even violent incidents from time to time. The coexistence of two very different religions had a great impact on culture. Various elements associated with the old religion were kept, other were abandoned, elements of the new religion were incorporated and others were even combined.
Although 98% of Greeks nowadays are Orthodox Christians, there are still popular traditions, festivals and customs around the country that originate from the old religion, and natives are in many cases unsure of the origin of various such elements of culture. They have been adopted in culture so well that no one could even guess when and how they initially started.
Food and the economy
Farming, fishing, herding, seafaring, commerce and crafts have always been the historical mainstays of the Greek economy. Also, food has always been an important aspect of the Greek life, with social and cultural significance, something that is not commonly found in most other cultures. Certain products and foods are so emblematic of the culture of the place, and even influence modern lifestyle. In fact, even the way Greeks do business greatly depends on culture.
Greek food and beverages are famous all over the world for both taste and quality. Greek cuisine is often cited as an example, while on of the most important and basic elements of the culture is food and drink sharing with friends and relatives. Fresh fruit, vegetables and olive oil are truly a blessing. I have tried so many national cuisines for losing weight, but Greek cuisine still remains my favorite by far.
Sure, you can argue that it’s a subjective matter of taste, but what I can say for sure is that the freshness, quality and taste of the ingredients is unmatched, and you can’t argue about that… There are so many food and ingredient combinations one can make, to create both healthy and delicious plates for all tastes.
The Greek family
My family… The most precious possession in every Greek’s life. Not so many cultures around the world have so close-knit families and relations between their members. Although family life has changed considerably, the extended family model remains strong. The same is true for the institution of marriage that is still not taken lightly. Women and particularly mothers in Greece play an important role in most Greek families.
The family’s own prestige often rests on the woman’s ability to manage a household properly, while men on the other hand are considered the mediator of the family disputes and the guardian of the unity of the family. Family businesses are also very common in Greece, because Greeks do business with those they know and trust and in addition companies remain hierarchical over the traditional respect for age and position. Furthermore, the family always offers financial and emotional support, regardless of the age and status of its members.
It’s common to see people in their 30’s stay with their family until they are married or forced to move because of their work or studies. This is not considered so bad in Greece, it’s rather normal to say the truth, whereas in other cultures it would be a serious matter, society would surely condemn.
Music and arts
The word music come from the Greek word “musiki”. Arts and especially music always played a significant role in society and apart from recreational and religious purposes, were also used in education. In ancient times boys were taught music from a very young age. This tradition was later passed to the Romans and the Byzantines,although the Orthodox church was very strict and had rules regarding music that could not be bent easily.
There was one radical change in music during the 20th century, after World War I, that followed social changes and urban living. Traditional music was preserved in rural areas but later on was also changed into a completely reverse direction. Nevertheless traditional songs still remain popular during certain occasions and celebrations, like national holidays, Easter etc.