Greek family values are so strong that elements of tradition and culture transcend many generations. A young Greek man with a family in the States may still honor and respect the wishes of a great-great Greek grandparent whom he has never met. Of course, this is a generalization, and some of these traditions are changing and becoming diluted as families become more "Americanized." However, core values remain the same generation after generation. First-generation, Greek-American Dr. Peter Zafirides shared, "As Greeks, we have an immense amount of pride in maintaining all of the traditions as best we can. Respect for each other, our heritage and education are priorities."
Importance of Family and Social Gatherings
According to Maps of the World, Greek families are very close-knit and get together often to celebrate just about any occasion you can think of. The gatherings are made up of extended family members and feature food and conversation. You'll likely be greeted with a warm hug and possibly a kiss on each cheek, depending upon how Americanized the family has become and how they typically greet one another.
Greeka.com points out that Greeks love to gather for a chat over coffee. In Greece, it is quite common for people to go out for coffee after dinner and stay out for an hour or two just chatting and enjoying one another's company.
Engagement and Marriage
Greeks Marrying Greeks
Generally, Greeks are expected to marry other Greeks. Zafirides shares, "Although this has changed over the years, marrying someone Greek is generally preferred by the family. I do believe though, given the realities of contemporary American life, Greek families still hold hope that their children will be happy in their marriages, whether it's agreed upon or not." Zafirides says that he is thrilled to have found a lovely wife named Sophia, who just happens to be Greek as well.
In traditional Greek families, there is an order to process of becoming engaged and married. Greeka.com points out that, traditionally, the man should ask the woman's father for permission to marry her. The couple will then have an engagement before their marriage. The engagement period can last for years, and the couple is given gifts. They each wear a ring on the left hand and move it to the right upon completing marriage vows.
Krevati and Wedding Celebrations
According to Greek Boston, a few days before the wedding ceremony, a Krevati is held. the bride and her single attendants gather around the couple's future marriage bed to put on fresh bedding and decorations, throw gifts, money and small children onto the bed. This symbolizes prosperity and fertility for the couple. In general, Greeks truly value marriage and wish to see the marraiges of family members succeed.
Dr. Zafirides also shared how religion is interwoven into daily Greek living. "Religion is a very influential part of the Greek culture. This is understandable as Greece has one specific religion, namely the Greek Orthodox faith." Zafirides sees the Greek church as one of the things holding traditional culture together for American Greeks. The church is a place where Greeks get together regularly and discuss their shared values and beliefs. "I would have to believe that for most Greek-Americans today, our orthodox religion is an important part of our overall identity and link to our heritage."
Family Values and Morals
International Movement Youth Time indicates that young people learn their values from the family, because family is like a "school for the young person". The schooling starts the day the child is born but does not necessarily end at the age of legal adulthood. Instead, families remain close, offering input and advice to children long after they are married and raising their own families. Zafirides adds that, "Education is critical within the values of a Greek family. From an early age, I remember being told about the importance of education and how it provided freedom, respect and autonomy.
Although the goal of education was to ensure your success as an individual, there is a great emphasis on family. Not just the immediate family unit, but also an emphasis that family includes multiple generations living in harmony with each other."
Respect and the Family Name
"Another interesting pressure was the importance of maintaining respect for our family name within the Greek community," said Zafirides. The actions of the family members are seen as reflecting on the rest of the family, so acting with honor is important to Greeks.
Is Greek Culture Becoming Diluted?
Even though some believe Greek culture is becoming diluted and Americanized, Zafirides believes it depends on the family and their commitment to traditional Greek values. "There is a very strong pride in being a Greek, even today."
Zafirides reflects, "For individuals where the culture is important to them, there is always a strong community of Greeks to be found. As I sit and reflect about whether my sons will maintain the Greek traditions like my family or my wife's family did, I have no doubt they will have the opportunity to do so if it is important to them."
No doubt, there are other families out there determined to teach their children the value of Greek traditions and the Greek culture will continue to thrive for many more generations.