Want to know more about religion in Greece? The following article presents some useful and interesting information.
97% of the Greek population celebrate the Orthodox religion whilst Islam, Roman Catholicism and Judaism make up most of the remaining religions.
Greece and Russia are the only countries to adopt the Orthodox religion officially , which forms the largest branch of Christianity outside of the Roman Catholic and the Protestant Churches.
The Orthodox religion is said to have its roots in history from the time of Constantine the Great who, it is purported, saw a vision of the cross.
In the 8th Century the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and the Patriarch of Constantinople came into conflict with one another and this led to the separation of the two sects, a period in history known as the Schism.
Festivals & Celebrations
The Greek Orthodox Church is a rich religion characterized by festivals and Saints days throughout the year. Food plays a key role in Greek society particularly in respect of their Orthodox religion with fasting and feasting throughout the religious calendar in Greece.
The women of Greece prepare the food for the Saints day celebrations which are like birthdays. Many Greeks are named after Orthodox saints and children traditionally do not celebrate their own birthdays but that of the Saint after whom they are named. Name day celebrations do not involve present giving but open house to family and neighbours who wish to give good wishes where they will be provided with sweets and other refreshments.
Easter is the most important Festival in Greece, which is preceded by a pre Lent festival known as ‘Clean Monday’. Greece being a matriarchal society, the women are often the caretakers of the religious observance of fasting and have even been known to fast in their husbands place during the 40 days of lent if the latter are unable to sustain their obligation to the Religion.
During holy week the Churches in Greece are decorated in black. On Good Friday the women traditionally decorate Christ’s bier which they then carry through the streets singing hymns. On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, a very important time in the religious calendar, the Churches are decorated in white. At midnight Greek Churches and chapels are plunged into darkness and the priest lights a candle to represent the resurrection of Christ. The congregation then light their own candles and this is followed by breaking their fast with Easter soup.
Aside to Easter, The Assumption of the Virgin on August 15th is an important festival in the calendar of the Orthodox religion all over Greece when the icon of the Madonna is paraded through the streets. This is followed by communal feasting and partying which can go on for days.
There is no doubt that the Greek Orthodox religion plays a very important role in the lives of its people. The visitor to Greece will be welcomed into their celebrations and cannot fail to feel the spirit of their religion as expressed by their festivals.