When you think of Greek culture, you might think of the sound of breaking a plate and yelling, “Opa!” or using Windex as a means to fix any problem around the house. Coming from a Greek family, I can say that’s not just it. Greek culture is very diverse, with each region of the country having its own unique traditions and social customs.

Dance, traditions, and food are just three of many other aspects of the culture that show the diversity, with each region having its own unique style. Since the 1950s, many Greek immigrants have brought the essence of the culture to share and showcase here in Canada alongside the various other ethnic cultures that contribute to Canada’s diversity.

For instance, weddings have unique traditions. On the island of Crete, moments before entering the church, the couple and their families are escorted by a band singing traditional Cretan songs, called Mandenades, while friends throw flowers. Up North in the region of Macedonia, the wedding party will enter the reception carrying a roasted pig on a platter, offering it to guests as they walk around.

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In areas of the Dodecanese and island of Crete itself, the music and cultural costumes are different to what you’d see in the mainland of Peloponnese and Northern Greece. Colder areas of the country wore heavy wool pants and jackets with floral patterns, the islanders wore MC Hammer-like pants called “vrakes,” and in mainland areas, both men and women wore skirts with long johns.

To showcase and teach about the history of the regions, Greek communities around Canada hold cultural festivals where people can watch and observe the unique dances in their respective cultural costumes. The Greek community of London always hosts one during June, where guests can enjoy Greek food as they observe the dancing from London’s dance groups.

In most of these traditional songs, many use an assortment of basic music instruments like drums or lutes, but also include original instruments native to the area and two of these uncommon instruments are the lyra and the gaida.

The lyra is a fiddle-like instrument that has three or five strings, with different versions of it coming from the Cretans or Pontic Greeks. It’s usually played upright with a specific playing style that’s intense and fast. On the other hand, the gaida is the Greek rip-off of bagpipes.

Unlike the classic Scottish instrument, this one is completely made from the hide of a goat, and it functions as a bagpipe with the exception that the player does not use their mouth.

Orthodoxy is the main and predominant faith in Greece, with over 98 per cent of the country’s population identifying with it. Several religious feast days are celebrated throughout the year, with Easter being the country’s biggest to date. For the entirety of holy week, businesses close early and from holy Thursday to Monday while people are at home with their families celebrating.

It’s notably made the island of Santorini famous for the midnight mass held Saturday for the enormous candlelight vigil that lights up the cliffside village of Oia with the thousands of people who attend.

Here in Canada, very much the same thing happens with Greek Orthodox Canadians gathering around their local churches and partaking in the holy week celebrations and traditions. On the Sunday morning after church festivities have completed, families gather and celebrate over a massive feast of a whole lamb and other foods while they greet each other saying “Xristos Anesti” which in English means, Christ is risen.

Greece is also credited as being the birthplace of many things, especially for things some other Mediterranean countries are known for. Pizza, for example, was actually created in Ancient Greece, originally called “Plankuntos.”

Throughout the history of London, many immigrants came over to bring with them the taste of the country and established themselves as ambitious and successful restaurateurs. Since then, many of them have closed down but there are still some great hot spots where you can get the authentic Greek experience. Downtown on Richmond St. is the famous Dimis, a restaurant that gives customers the overall ticket of the Greek experience. The restaurant offers many Greek themed dishes and desserts that truly show the master craftsmanship of Greek cuisine while also immersing the guests as if they are sitting at a beachside tavern.

People who celebrate their birthdays are given the Hellenistic pleasure of taking a plate, smashing it while yelling, “Opa!” to showcase their inner Greek.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for what we know as Greek culture. To me, celebrating this history helps me and others show our pride in our heritage and where we come from as Canadians from diverse communities. It also goes to show how big of a cultural melting pot Canada really is, where many of different backgrounds can show and share their uniqueness.