Orthodoxy in Greece
Greek Orthodox church
Most Greeks are Christian Orthodox (Right Glory or Dogma).
There are, of course,
also other religious groups in the Greek society like Catholics, Moslems, Jews,
Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindus and Buddhists, but they consist of minority groups.
A few specific characteristics of the Greek Orthodox religion is that the Virgin
Mary, or Panagia (All Saint) as the Greeks call her, is given great importance,
the clergy is only male, priests can have wives as long as they get married
before they are ordained, there are monasteries and icons are given great
There are many, many churches in Greece, and they are very varied in size. Their
walls are covered in icons, and the iconostasis (wall of icons) separate the
holiest space where the altar is from the rest of the church. Only clergymen are
allowed behind the iconostasis. The churches are always named after its patron
You might have noticed that there are icons of various saints almost
everywhere you go in Greece: in homes, shops, restaurants, cars, boats etc. One
is not to worship the actual icon, but what it represents as a window to heaven.
The sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Holy Confession, Holy
Unction, Holy Matrimony (Marriage), and Ordination .
At a baptism the whole child, who usually is around a year old, is put under
water and Greek parents do not call their child by its name until it has been
Each day of the year is also a saints day, and therefore all orthodox prefer to
celebrate their name days since they always have saints names.
The most important days of the year are Easter, then 15 August, the day of the
Virgin Mary. Many miracles are believed to happen that day, and pilgrims travel
to monasteries and churches on that day especially. The most famous place is the
island Tenos, which can be compared to the Catholics Lourdes.
In the north there is a place called Agios Oros, or
Mt Athos, which is a
peninsula in Chalcidice. This is a place with many monasteries where only men are
Easter is the most important holiday, Christmas comes second. There are various
masses during Easter, but the one almost all participate in is on the Sunday.
People gather at their local churches, usually outside because of the crowds,
late in the evening. At midnight the priest declares "Christos anesti", Christ
has risen, and the people reply "Alithos anesti", "truly risen". Then everyone
light the candles they have with them from the holy flame from Jerusalem that
the priest carries. After this the people go home, trying to keep the flame
alive. If they make it to the doorway with the candle still burning, they make a
cross in the archway, blessing the house for the following year.