Nationality: Greek American
Residence: Anaheim, CA and Thessaloniki, Greece
Date of Performance/Collection: April 21, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Greek
“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”.
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.
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.
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.