Start Planning you Holidays and Smash Some Plates…
I love Greece. In fact it’s one of my favourite holiday destinations. You can’t beat a sunset over the white-washed houses of Santorini or a succulent plate of dolmades and kleftiko, which is why we should add Greece and it’s amazing islands back on to our vacation Must Do list and remember just why we love the country so much. Forget the negative press it got last year in the media, they are slowly rising again and we all owe our ancient seat of civilization a visit soon. Still need convincing?
Here are my 5 reasons the Greeks are great.
1) They have a government that actually listens to its people
And perhaps some of the rest of us don’t like that too much, we feel we don’t have the same deal where we live. In what many would consider a bold move to ask for ‘debt forgiveness’, I agree with Greece’s live and let live approach. It’s all too easy to treat the Greek economy as The Great Scapegoat for the world’s woes, but the reasons for its current status are as complex as Pythagoras’ theorum. And they are interwoven with the actions and decisions of a great number of nations. Sometimes the best thing is simply to move on, put the past behind us, put it all to bed and focus on what’s good for the people (suicide rates increased in Greece by staggering proportions between 2010 and 2015, as did the use of soup kitchens). Meanwhile, the government is, in my opinion, acting morally by putting people first for a change; completely bucking the trend by going against the grain of a wider society’s ‘technical rules’. Sometimes there is a lot of hidden wisdom in the saying ‘rules are there to be broken’. And this revolutionary stance feels like one of those historical momentum changing times.
2) They have given the world some of the most incredibly diversified foods
Feta, Greek yoghurt – proper Greek Yoghurt, and Tzatziki are just some of the dishes the world would be a duller place without. And where would we be without Greek honey, taramasalata, dolmades, souvlaki (skewers), olives – proper olives and proper olive oil? Not to mention the lure of the perfectly crafted piece of Spanakopita… the mouth waters. And we haven’t even got on to the cake yet… but make mine a Galaktoboureko full of sweet creamy custard and layers of fresh filo pastry. And then we have the distinct and inimitable Ouzo, Metaxa and Retsina to raise our glasses to. Which is what I love so much about culinary Greece. Everything is so unique. Everything has its own special – and yes, in some cases, acquired – taste. Greece simply isn’t a sheep. She has always been her own person, none more so than when it comes to the kitchen.
3) Family means everything
Many of us in other parts of the Western world have forgotten that. Greek family values are so strong that elements of tradition and culture transcend many generations. Generalised perhaps, and some of these traditions are also evolving, especially as more Greeks live overseas. But many basic values are at the centre piece of families decade after decade. Dr. Peter Zafirides, a first-generation Greek-American puts it down to this:
‘As Greeks, we have an immense amount of pride in maintaining all of the traditions as best we can. Respect for each other, our heritage and education are priorities…’
Nothing is more important than celebrating an event with family, even those shared dates on the calendar which seem insignificant to the rest of the world. Gatherings are often on such a large scale that they will include extended family members too. Everybody is included. Life together, good food and conversation are wholeheartedly embraced. And even when it comes to weddings, yet again, everyone is involved in the joy of a new adventure; a Krevati takes place as family and friends flank the couple’s future marital bed so that gifts, money and even small children can be thrown onto it. A symbol of prosperity and fertility, and it has to be said, it also sounds like a lot of fun!
4) Myths and Legends
Without Ancient Greece we wouldn’t have some of the world’s best stories, be they true or false. These tales of love, revenge, suffering and pain have inspired writers past and present to give us a world full of creativity, magic and imagery, hope and belief. And so, in a ripple effect of epic proportions, we as humanity are able to experience the very best in theatre on Broadway and London’s West End, the very best of movies from Harry Potter through to the current box office sensation that is Ant-man, the very best in novels such as J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings and the very best in poetry – some of Chaucer’s lyrical works are dappled with the stroke of Ancient Greece. Even Picasso and Michaelangelo fell under the Greek spell. All of these productions and masterpieces are steeped in the legacy of Ancient Greek Myths and Legends in one way or another. The heroes and heroins, the villains, the perpetual battle of good versus evil. Can you imagine a world without the arts? Life is in perpetual motion, and Greece’s stories of the past touch the next generation and the next generation and the next, filtering down and seeping their magic virtually everywhere around the globe.
5) Plate smashing!
Although smashing plates is a time-honoured tradition mainly observed at a Greek restaurant or wedding reception, the endurance of this fabulous heritage tell us so much about the uniqueness of Greek culture and the Greek people’s passion for kefi – something that’s hard to put into words, but my own personal take would be ‘high spirits’ or ‘frenzy’. This, on the face of it, bizarre activity is believed to have evolved in Ancient Greece, although nobody is quite sure of its exact origins. And today it is still used… a little less frequently perhaps, as a form of celebration, be that to wish newlyweds good luck, or to show appreciation for a band! If there’s one thing that has and probably never will change when it comes to the Greeks, it’s their love of socializing, and doing so their way.
And Efharisto for that!
The smartest thing the world can do right now? Shine a little love to Greece’s people. Stop beating the drum of lack, and being a victimised rest of the world because of Greece’s actions. It’s time to start appreciating the things this amazing nation has brought to the world. And these are just 5 of them.
Let’s shout these 5 out from the rooftops… and share as many others besides.
Let’s smash plates, toast with Ouzo and look forward to better days ahead, not just for the Greeks, but for all of us.