Tag Archives: Greek Orthodox

Knocking on the head of a virgin


Perform the physical action of knocking on the head of a virgin.wood, they would knock on the head of a virgin instead. This gesture can also be substituted with the phrase itself “knocking on the head of a virgin” as a form of proverbial speech.


In high school, the informant learned this saying from a friend who was Greek Orthodox and claimed it as a part of Greek Orthodox culture. Preliminary research has yet to provide any link between this superstition and Greek Orthodox culture, instead pointing towards this practice stemming from urban legend.


Though the connection between wood as a material and virgin’s heads may seem far-fetched, the substitution of heads for wood is common in the practice of ‘knocking on wood.’ When someone knocks on their own head as a substitution for knocking on wood, they are not only participating in the superstition but also making a joke at their own expense, implying that their head is made of wood rather than brains and thus they are dumb. With this common conflation in mind, knocking on the heads of virgins as a substitute for knocking on wood presents both as a means of participating in the ‘knock on wood’ superstition while making a joke, this time at the expense of a group (virgins) rather than the self. The claim that this superstition comes from Greek Orthodox culture is so far unfounded and inexplicable.

Red Eggs on Easter

Background: The informant is a 75 year old female. She grew up in Illinois, attending both high school and college in the state. Her parents were immigrants from Greece and she grew up in a predominantly Greek neighborhood. Her religion was Greek Orthodox which is where she picked up many different traditions.

Context: Upon calling for Easter, the informant was in the middle of dying an egg, to which she promptly gave the background information for.


MC: It’s a very Greek tradition to dye the eggs a brilliant red. The dye is extremely heavy and I would recommend using gloves because it will stain your hands.

Me: What does the red represent?

MC: I believe… it’s the blood and sacrifice of Christ. Also, each person is supposed to tap the eggs and whoever has the one egg that doesn’t crack, that person will have good luck for the rest of the year.


Informant: The tradition holds a sacred place in her heart because it is related to her childhood.

Mine: It seems that many traditions are related to luck but they vary in some way. It makes sense that that person whose egg doesn’t crack would have good luck, because cracking would represent something breaking. The red of the egg is a very beautiful color and to hear it represents the blood of Christ was initially surprising. The blood of Christ is likely chosen to be dyed upon an egg because an egg represents the start of new life, and Easter is the day that Jesus was resurrected. Eggs are extremely popular in folklore as new life is a concept that is returned to multiple times.

Coin in the Cake

Background: The informant is a 75 year old female. She grew up in Illinois, attending both high school and college in the state. Her parents were immigrants from Greece and she grew up in a predominantly Greek neighborhood. Her religion was Greek Orthodox which is where she picked up many different traditions.

Context: Upon calling for Easter, the informant was in the middle of dying eggs, but she gave multiple examples of what is good luck for Greek.


MC: A tradition I used to do in the Greek Orthodox Church when I was younger was that a yeast cake would be made. Sometimes people would put eggs around the cake, to symbolize Easter, but that wasn’t always the case. However, there was a very important step when baking the cake. In the dough was placed a single coin. Then after the midnight mass, we would be cutting up the cake, and whoever gets the gold coin would be given good luck for the rest of the year. We had many traditions giving luck.


Informant: She is very proud of her culture and traditions, and is especially happy that the Greeks have many traditions for good luck.

Mine: The ending statement stands out and brings up the question as to why there would be so many traditions surrounding good luck, especially for the Greeks. It could be that since civilization has been around for so long, they have undoubtedly faced many hardships, and by focusing on good luck rituals, it allows for a more optimistic view on the world, rather than focusing on the past. Additionally, the two most notable good luck Greek traditions surround Easter, the red egg and the coin in the egg. The hope coming along with Jesus’s resurrection may help contribute to an overall feeling of good luck.

To see another variation, Stanonis, A. J. & Wallace, R. (2018). Tasting New Orleans: How the Mardi Gras King Cake Came to Represent the Crescent City. 6–23.

Breaking Plates in Greek Culture


“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.


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.


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.


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.

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