Tag Archives: greek

Καλαματιανός/Kalamatianos (Dance)

DESCRIPTION

Καλαματιανός (Kalamatianos) is also a greek folk dance that is performed alongside the folk song with the same name.  It is to be performed in a faster Syrtos, 4/4 rhythm.  It is, like it’s musical counterpart, performed at festivals, parties, weddings, and Glendis (Greek Nightclub parties).

“It [Καλαματιανός (Kalamatianos)] is also the most basic Thessalian style dance in Greece.”

MAIN PIECE

The dance is to be performed in a 12 step pattern moving to the right, swingiing your arms while holding them together.  Your right foot to the side on 1, then left crossing forward on 2.  Then your right foot crosses forward into neutral on 3 and then cross FORWARD on 4.  Repeat beats 3 & 4 for 5 & 6, then 7 & 8. Instead of taking a step back to neutral on 9, you will rock back and then close your feet on 10. You will then do a rock step back on 11 and close your feet again on 12.  After this, you repeat the pattern over and over until the song ends.

BACKGROUND

My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s  Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki.  Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago.  SK, my informant, learned this dance from “glendis” in which this dance was done.  SK told me her belief is that this dance, unlike the song that accompanies it, is about coming together and letting loose, while still celebrating your heritage as a Greek person.

CONTEXT

This came from a friend of mine from my church in Southern California.  I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece.  I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.

THOUGHTS

It’s interesting to see my informant see it as a way to connect more with her culture.  In doing further research into this, it seems like more and more greek folk dance lore is performed, not as a way to convey a specific story, but instead the message that greek culture exists and is alive and well.  I find this fascinating as we get into this idea of meta-folklore as this is a reasoning that makes this folklore’s relevance based in the fact that it’s performed because it’s folklore. Folklore performedfor the sake of displaying folklore, how crazy and beautiful!

Καλαματιανός/Kalamatianos (Song)

DESCRIPTION
Καλαματιανός (Kalamatianos) is a greek folk song that is performed alongside a folk dance with the same name. It is performed in a faster Syrtos, 4/4 rhythm.  It is commonly performed at festivals, parties, and Greek nightclubs.

“Καλαματιανός is a song with loose instrumentation, but more consistent lyrics that we’d dance to back in Greece.”

MAIN PIECE
ORIGINAL SCRIPT
Μήλο μου κόκκινο, ρόιδο βαμμένο
Μήλο μου κόκκινο, ρόιδο βαμμένο
Γιατί με μάρανες το πικραμένο
Παένω κ’ έρχομαι μα δεν σε βρίσκω
Παένω κ’ έρχομαι μα δεν σε βρίσκω
Βρίσκω την πόρτα σου μανταλομένη
Τα παραθυρούδια σου φεγγοβολούνε
Τα παραθυρούδια σου φεγγοβολούνε
Ρωτάω την πόρτα σου, που πάει η κυρά σου;
Κυρά μ’ δεν είναι ‘δώ, πάησε στην βρύση
Κυρά μ’ δεν είναι ‘δώ, πάησε στην βρύση
Πάησε να βρει νερό και να γεμίσει

ROMAN SCRIPT
To mílo mou eínai kókkino, roz vamméno
To mílo mou eínai kókkino, roz vamméno
Dióti me pikría to pikró

Páo kai érchomai allá den boró na se vro
Páo kai érchomai allá den boró na se vro
Vrísko tin pórta sas kleidoméni

Ta paráthyrá sas lámpoun
Ta paráthyrá sas lámpoun
Rótisa tin pórta sou, poú pigaínei i kyría sou?

I kyría den eínai edó, pígaine sti vrýsi
I kyría den eínai edó, pígaine sti vrýsi
Pigaínete na vreíte neró kai gemíste to

TRANSLATION
My red apple, my maroon-red pomegranate,
My red apple, my maroon-red pomegranate,
Why have you turned me bitter?
I come and go, but can’t find you
I come and go, but can’t find you
I opened your door, and it always is locked.

Your windows are always lighted
Your windows are always lighted
I ask at your door, “Where’s your lady?”

My lady is not here, she is at the well
My lady is not here, she is at the well
She’s gone to drink water.

BACKGROUND
My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki. Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago. SK, my informant, learned this song from dancing to it at “glendis” (greek folk dance nightclub parties of sorts) in which this song was performed in a variety of different forms, but with similar lyrics. SK says that she believes it’s some sort of universal message and story based on unrequited love that no matter who you are, you can relate to.

CONTEXT
This came from a friend of mine from church in Southern California. I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece. I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.

THOUGHTS
I personally agree with my informant that it is a Greek song based in this idea of unrequited love. It’s universal and can be put into any style of greek music you are doing to a Syrtos beat, whether it is more modern or traditional. The way it talks about chasing someone that you can’t seem to catch is something we see in so many different culture’s folklore as this idea of reaching for something that is just out of reach is a universal truth of life. The way greek people have interpreted it into a song like this one that is supposed to be danced to is absolutely fabulous.

Breaking Plates in Greek Culture

MAIN PIECE

“Breaking plates is not some silly thing we only see about Greeks in the media.  We don’t do it every day, but at big occasions, we break some plates!  Like spitting, it is more popular among Greeks in Greece than ones who are in the American world of Greek Orthodoxy.  Also like spitting, it is meant to ward off the evil spirits.  It is believed that the loud sounds the plates make are meant to scare off evil spirits, but also to symbolize when the party can really begin.  It is common for very civil, professional parties  to turn wild after the breaking of a plate.

BACKGROUND

My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s  Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki.  Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago.  SK, my informant, learned this from not understanding why parties would get wilder after the breaking of the plate and said she remembered it being like a food fight level of energy.

CONTEXT

This came from a friend of mine from my church in Southern California.  I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece.  I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.

THOUGHTS

This dual meaning of  both scaring away spirits through the breaking of plates  and getting the party truly started fascinates me as it seems from  much of my research that a lot of  Greek folklore  has dual meanings, tending towards one being fun and celebratory and the other based in the spiritual world.  It makes me think about how religion is so important in the country as it is one of the most Christian countries in the world.  Looking into that, it makes me ask how ghosts and spirits fit in with  that.

Spitting at Greek Weddings

MAIN PIECE

“That common stereotype that Greeks spit at brides down the wedding aisle you see in [My] Big Fat Greek Wedding, although exageratted, is based in truth.  More in Greek-Greek culture than in Greek-American culture, you will see people spit on the bride, not walking down the aisle, but while she gets ready.  Also this “spitting” is not accompanied by saliva, but instead is like a mock spit. What it’s supposed to do is ward away evil spirits and the “evil eye”,  which a lot of us characterize with a redness on the face.  This can be acne or just simple irritation of the skin, but we have done it at weddings moreso to wish the bride luck and hope her husband doesn’t run away.  Yeah, it can be a little condescending at times because people could do it to say, “Just so your man doesn’t leave you at the altar”.

BACKGROUND

My informant was born in Anaheim, California, however, she spent most of her childhood on Greece’s  Mainland, particularly in Thessaloniki.  Both of her parents grew up and emigrated from Greece only twenty years ago.  SK, my informant, learned this not from her church in America, but her church back in Thessaloniki where there is more of a belief in bad spirits surrounding big occasions.

CONTEXT

This came from a friend of mine from my church in Southern California.  I got this folklore from a zoom call with her while she was quarantined back in Greece.  I asked her to explain some traditional Greek cultural cornerstones she knows as she ate breakfast.

THOUGHTS

When you watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it’s easy to write off a lot of the stuff in it and other culture-specific movies as overblown stereotypes, however, in asking someone with firsthand experience, it’s very interesting to see a piece of folklore interpreted into a joke or comedic form.  As well, I find it interesting that this has such a dual meaning.  It can be seen as helpful or insulting and that really opens up a conversation about how one bigger folk group could be divided into  sub-divisions based on how they interpret the same piece of folklore.

The Greek Egg Tradition

G: I can start with Easter since that just happened. One of the main traditions is the boiling of these red eggs. And the red is supposed to represent the blood of Jesus when he was crucified- and you crack them with other people after doing a set of sayings: one person says “Christ is risen” and the other person says “truly he is risen” and then you crack eggs with each other and whoever’s egg doesn’t crack “wins”. It’s supposed to mean something if your egg doesn’t crack but I can’t remember.

In the Orthodox tradition, eggs are a symbol of new life. Eggs were used by early Christians to represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, symbolizes the rebirth or renewal of all those who believe in Christianity. The Orthodox custom is to dye Easter eggs a dark red color. Red represents the blood of Jesus Christ and victory. These eggs are sometimes decorated with etchings or the holy cross on the face.

For the informant, this tradition is a monumental piece of their Greek heritage which is why it’s so important. The winner of this game is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. I see this tradition as a way for Christians to remember Jesus’ sacrifice. I also see this as a fun way to bring families together. The mere celebration of Easter is sacred and should be experienced with people who love you. Eggs have forever been seen as a symbol of life and, in a way, playing this game symbolizes the renewal of familial bonds.

For another account of this game, please see Venetia Newall’s (1971) An Egg at Easter: A Folklore Studyp. 344

Coffee Grinds – Predict the Future?

The informant was telling me how Greeks used the dregs from coffee grinds to read the future:

Informant: In some cultures they read tea leaves, but in some cultures they read coffee grinds.

Me: huh

Support: dregs from the coffee

Informant: They took the dregs turned over a little cup and turned it three times, and then they read the inside of the cup – what dripped out – and read what they would see “oh your gonna take a trip, oh you’re gonna get married, oh this or that”

Support: they always said I was going to get married, but here I am!

 

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:
This was completely new to me, as I had never heard of this ritual and only faintly heard of the tea leave predictions. I think it is really interesting how different cultures share so many similar traditions and patterns, and while they are similar they are also very different. It also raises questions about why cultures come up with these practices, seeing that they are not always accurate, but fascinating nonetheless.

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.

Sirtaki

Interviewer: Can you tell me about the greek dance the Sirtaki?

AH: Yeah, that’s probably the most famous greek dance people always are performing it at celebrations and stuff.

Interviewer: What type of celebrations is it performed at?

AH: you can see it at a lot of stuff like holidays, parades, birthdays, just whenever there is an official celebration of something. 

Interviewer: How do you actually do the dance?

AH: You basically are in a line of people where you stick out your arms and put them on the people next to you’s shoulders and then move back in forth as a unit kicking your legs and lunging. 

Interviewer: Do you know the origin off the dance?

AH: No not really but everyone in Greece knows it and it is a pretty old part of our culture, I think it has been around for hundreds of years. 

Interviewer: How do you feel about the dance? 

AH: I think its pretty fun to see. Since its usually done while I’m celebrating something it’s always in a fun environment and its usually kind of funny too see because the people doing it are usually dressed up and it’s a funny looking dance.

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 learned about this folk dance during his time living in Greece. This interview took place in person at Leavey library on USC’s campus. 

Analysis: This is folk dance is an interesting piece of Greek folklore. It reminds me of how when I visited Spain I was able to see how much the flamenco is a part of the Spanish culture. I enjoyed hearing that this is not a dance that is commercialized or sold as part of Greek culture but rather a real part that greek people enjoy.

Protection Against Compliments and the Evil Eye

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: So, in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, they make fun of this, but it’s kind of true. In Greece, we believe very heavily in the evil eye and that its disease very easy to get. If you receive a lot of compliments, and you don’t do this one superstitious thing, you can get the evil eye. Everyone, or at least every Greek, knows that one person who died from the evil eye. Honestly, maybe he or she died from cancer, but there’s always that one grandmother who believes the death was because of the evil eye. Basically, when you get complimented, someone will warn you that you will get the evil eye. If a family member complimented me, for instance, then someone would probably say that he or she is giving me the evil eye. Then, I would have to make a spitting noise three times. Sometimes, someone else can do that for you. Also, sometimes people compliment you but say that you don’t have to do the three spitting noises. They will explain that they are just stating a fact and not complimenting you in an envious way. Some people give compliments out of jealousy or resentment, but if they don’t and say that they don’t, then you don’t have to make the spitting noises. If you do make the spitting noises in front of someone who complimented you, they will not take offense to it. Also, people can walk up to you and make the spitting noises three times  and say that they did it just in case someone compliments you today. People will not stop complimenting you. You just have to do this to avoid the evil eye. Everyone in Greece does this. I learned this from my mother when I was really little.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: It’s important because I don’t want to get the evil eye! Actually, one time, one of my cousins had a friend who died when she was little. She told me that it was because of the evil eye, and it really freaked me out. I asked my mom, and she told me not to believe that too heavily but to always follow the superstition to be safe. Once, in high school, I got a really bad headache for days. My mom asked if I had been doing the spitting noises, and I hadn’t for a while, so I got back to doing that. Also, sometimes when my mom gets lightheaded, she blames it on that. It’s all in our heads, but in the back of our minds, we think it’s possible.


Personal Thoughts: I really enjoyed hearing about this piece of folklore because I never realized how seriously Aliki, and Greeks in general, take the evil eye. What is also interesting is that this piece promotes those receiving compliments to take caution. In a sense, it keeps them from being conceited and just accepting compliments, which is admirable.

“Your mother-in-law loves you” Greek Tradition

Informant: The informant is Aliki, an eighteen-year-old young woman who grew up in Yonkers, New York. She is a freshman at Concordia University in Irvine, California. She is of Greek descent.

Context: We sat on the floor of my dorm room at the University of Southern California when Aliki visited me during her spring break from college.

Original Script:
Informant: This takes place when you are eating at the dinner table. Say my aunt will call us. In Greek, my mother will say to my aunt, “Your mother-in-law loves you.” When she says this, my aunt will understand that she is at the table eating. That way, she doesn’t have to explain to my aunt that she is eating; she just gets it. This phone conversation has to take place between two Greeks because you speak the phrase in Greek. My aunt, or whoever is on the phone, and my mom can laugh it off, and my aunt will tell her to enjoy her meal and hang up. My mother taught me this when I was about thirteen. That’s around the time I saw her do this for the first time. I just remember that one day, my mom kept saying it.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: I think it’s just kind of important to know because it’s part of my culture. Also, it’s useful to know because if I called someone and they said that my mother-in-law loves me, I should understand what it means.

Personal Thoughts: I like this piece of folklore a lot because I think it is very unique. It is interesting to me that Greeks have a general understanding of what to do when they hear the phrase, “Your mother-in-law loves you” over the phone. I also find it compelling because it seems that this phrase takes just as long to say as something like, “I’m eating right now. I’ll call you back.” Since the two are just as simple to say, it is interesting that Greeks choose to say something which most people would deem more confusing, rather than just explaining what they are doing.