USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Greece’
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Symbolizing that Christ Has Risen Through Greek Easter Eggs

The informant shared a Greek Easter tradition of cracking red eggs with me, while her younger sister provided supporting information. The game starts with every member of a family receiving an egg, and then cracking it against someone else’s egg. Whoever’s egg remains un-cracked at the end of the game receives good luck for the year.

Informant: The Greek eggs are dyed red because it signifies the blood of christ… the red… and um they can only be dyed red on Thursday… Maundy-Thursday. And also when you crack the eggs … when you crack the eggs it’s like Christ being released from the tomb

Support: the shell symbolizes the tomb 

Me: Do you practice this every year for easter?

Informant: Yes, yes. The interesting thing is that depending on the calendar. Sometimes Greek Easter and regular Easter are the same day. And other times it can be as many as  4 weeks apart?

Support: Yes, Greek easter has to be after the Passover and it has to be the first full moon of the month

Informant: After the first full moon

Support: Yes after, there has to be Passover and then after the first full moon. It has to be after that. Because the last supper was a Passover dinner, so we’re on a different calendar. We’re not on the Gregorian calendar, we’re on the Julian Calendar.

Informant: But in the American tradition, Easter is the same time as Passover because that’s when Jesus went into Jerusalem was before the Passover. But the Greeks have a different date for the Passover I guess.

Support: It’s because we’re on a different calendar. But it can’t be celebrated before, so those two things.. Passover and the full moon dictate when we celebrate.  

 

Context: 

The Informant is a Greek woman who was born in the United States. She currently lives in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA. Though she was not born in Greece, her parents immigrated to the US and she was born into a very Greek community in Phoenix, AZ. The performance was held during an Easter party, in front of her younger sister, who provided supporting information, as well as me.

Analysis:
Being part Greek, I have always been aware of the ‘Red Egg’ tradition my family practices during Easter. However, I never knew how in depth it went as a cultural practice. For me, it was just a game where the winner would receive good luck for the year, but as I talked with the informant I discovered that it was so much more. The tradition represents the many different components of Easter in one unified ritual.

 

For more information on Greek Easter eggs and why they are dyed red, you can reference page 25 of Greece by Gina DeAngelis.

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Greek Easter Bread

The informant was sharing an important Greek Easter tradition within her family:

*Names are reduced to initials

Me: Can you tell me about the Easter bread you make?

Informant: Tsoureki is a traditional Greek Easter bread that’s prepared during Greek Easter week. It’s usually braided and the red eggs go into it. It’s all we served on Easter Sunday. And um…it’s a sweet bread and again, the egg symbolizes resurrection.

Me: Yum!

Informant: Sometime’s It’s braided and sometimes it’s braided in a round loaf with a cross on the top,

Support: which is our family tradition

Informant: Lots of Greeks do it though. The cross is a byzantine cross so it’s this shape

*She shows me her necklace*

Support: The curled edge is how I make it. Our family recipe came from my great-aunt that’s Aunt G. That’s where we get the recipe from.

Context: 

The Informant is a Greek woman who was born in the United States. She currently lives in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA. Though she was not born in Greece, her parents immigrated to the US and she was born into a very Greek community in Phoenix, AZ. The performance was held during an Easter party, in front of her younger sister.While the informant does not usually make the bread, her younger sister always does and she provided supporting information.

Analysis:
It’s very interesting how humans can adapt easily but also stick to tradition as we see with the bread. The recipe has been passed down through generations and while there are so many different recipes this one stuck and has meaning. The way the bread is formed has also stuck as the sister describe, as she always makes it in a curled manner. Finally, the younger sister is always the one who makes the bread for the family, which shows her role in maintaining the family tradition. It is very interesting that people are so adaptable, but also find ways to maintain systems that work.

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A Greek Easter

Interviewer: Do you know of any traditions that are different in Greece compared to America?

AH: Yes one that is very different is how we celebrate Easter. It is a much bigger thing there, we take a whole week off and do a lot of different stuff. 

Interviewer: What else is different? How do you celebrate?

AH: We start by generally having dinner throughout the week with family and friends to celebrate all week. At these dinners we do a thing with eggs, where we have red boiled eggs, the red represents the blood of Christ, and at dinner, you smash your egg against those next to and see who’s breaks. If yours breaks you lose and you eat it but if you win you keep doing it until it breaks. Another thing is that at the church everyone gathers the night before Easter Sunday at the church and the church does a ceremony representing the resurrection of Christ and everyone goes crazy after. We celebrate that like how Americans do the fourth of July, with fireworks and stuff. 

Interviewer: Are these traditions special to Greece? 

AH: I’m not really sure, I thought everyone did it until I came to America and saw how differently easter is celebrated. But everyone in Greece does it this way. 

Interviewer: How do you feel about the different traditions of celebrating Easter?

AH: I prefer how we do it in Greece, it makes Easter feel more special and more important and it is something that is very fun.

Context: My informant is an eighteen-year-old student at USC. He was born in Athens, Greece and lived there his entire life until coming to Los Angeles for college. He is Catholic and has celebrated Easter every year of his life in Greece. This interview took place in person at Leavey library on USC’s campus. 

Analysis: This is a good example of how as people we view our traditions as very normal until seeing a group that in this instance celebrates the same thing with their own culture’s different traditions and customs. It also shows how Greece is a place that takes celebrating Easter perhaps more seriously than America, even though those who celebrate are celebrating something very important to their religion. I enjoyed hearing my informant explain something that I thought I knew all about, celebrating Easter, in a different fashion.

 

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Greek Coin Cake

The Folklore:

E: You told me about a Greek New Year’s Day food tradition, could you tell me more about that?

H: Every year on New Year’s Day, my family eats a unique cake known as the Vasilopita, baked with a gold coin in the center. Its a tradition that has been passed down for generations, supposedly having been started with St. Basil centuries ago. He was said to have baked cakes for the poor on a holiday and snuck gold coins to them to help them out as well. Today, the whole household gets together to cut the cake, each slice for a different person. The first three are for the father, son and the holy spirit, the next is for the house, and the next is either the oldest member of the household or the head of the household, and then going down from there. Whoever gets the coin is supposed to be given good luck for the entire year.

E: Where did you learn this?

H: I’ve been doing it my whole life, but I always associate the tradition with my grandmother, because she is usually the one making the cake.

E: Why do you remember it?

H: It’s memorable because its always the first thing we do on the New Year. No matter if I’m at a party or out with friends or anything like that, my first move after that’s over is always to go home and cut the vasilopita with the family

E: What do you like about the tradition?

H: I think the tradition is about staying humble and remembering how lucky we all are. It’s also about hope and optimism with a whole new year just beginning. It sets the tone for the year and refocuses me on what’s ahead.

Context:

My informant is a first generation American his family being from Greece. He’s always been very lively when speaking about his heritage. He was elated when he heard I had to interview people about folklore. This was our transcribed conversation.

Analysis:

This is extremely similar to La Fève which is essentially the same concept but in France. I was so happy to see something from my culture have so many parallels with another culture. The only difference is in France instead of a gold coin it’s a figurine. Nonetheless, I believe it serves as a good reminder to be charitable and to come together with your family.

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