WEDDING TRADITIONS & CUSTOMS

  

Many traditions are preserved in the villages of Crete, especially in the more isolated ones. Among them are the Cretan wedding and the Cretan baptism. Both are special celebrations that may continue for several days. In the west of Crete they are characterised by the 'rizitika tragoudia', which are very old songs, some of Byzantine origin. Dancing, eating, drinking, and shooting guns into the air, are all part of the celebrations.

 

Cretan weddings 'o gamos' usually follow certain customs and, although this is changing as young Cretans in the towns follow more modern weddings styles, some traditions remain. Some rituals and customs also vary from town to town and village to village throughout Crete.

  

In the villages of Crete, the parents' consent - particularly that of the father - is necessary  to get married. The couple asks their parents' consent and blessing. The first step is the 'pledge' or engagement ceremony, which takes place at the house of the bride-to-be and is blessed by a priest. After that, the marriage contract is drawn and signed. A few days before the wedding, the guests sent their 'kaniskia' or presents, in the past this was - usually oil, wine, cheese or meat. The dowry made by her mother, grandmothers and aunts, consisting of sheets, towels and hand made embroideries, and the father of the bride offers a furnished home to his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift. It is accompanied by relatives and friends in a jubilant parade, to the sounds of lyre, singing and gun fires. 

     

The ceremony used to include a parade from the groom's house to the bride's house. There, a woman sings a 'mantinada' to persuade the family to open the door. The church bells ring calling the newly-weds to the church. After the ceremony, the couple then go to the groom's house where his mother feeds the bride with honey and walnuts and makes a cross at the front door, while the bride pours honey and breaks a pomegranate, to have a sweet, 'rose' marriage. Celebration starts with the couple singing and dancing, drinking and eating well into the night even until daylight.

  

THE WEDDING BED CEREMONY 

  

Known as 'To Krevati' (the bed). 
An old tradition that takes place prior to the wedding is known as the Bed Ceremony which normally takes place at the couple’s new home. Family and friends gather together. This is the time when mainly the unmarried friends will make up the marital bed, they will then often seat or roll a young baby on the bed, this is done in a hope that it will encourage fertility, the sheets are also then decorated with sugared almonds 'koufetta', and sometimes money and presents. In lots of areas rose petals are also placed on the sheets as a romantic gesture. Some of the more modern weddings are loosing these wonderful old customs, however, this as in any part of the world is happening more only in the larger cities of Greece.
 

 
 

 THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH WEDDING CEREMONY 

 
  

Weddings are mostly held late afternoon or early evening as the heat of the day becomes cooler. The groom 'o gambros' traditionally goes over to the bride's house for the engagement ritual where her father "agrees" to the marriage, and then the best man, called the 'koumbaros', leads the couple to the church. The 'koumbaros', was traditionally the groom's godfather (but today it is usually a close male relative or friend), has a crucial role in a Greek wedding.

 
The groom will arrive at the church with his best man holding the bride's bouquet 'nifi which he then hands to her when she arrives, unlike other counties traditions, they then enter the church together, where the priest blesses the rings by holding them in his hand and making the sign of the cross. The rings are then placed on the third finger of their right hands.
 

The 'koumbaros' initiates the ceremony and places crowns 'stefana' on the couples' heads, the crowns are usually white or gold or made of orange blossoms or twigs and vine wrapped in silver and gold paper and are attached by a ribbon signifying their union, the 'koumbaros' stands behind the pair and switches the crowns above their heads three times symbolising the Holy Trinity, God the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and to seal the union. Wine is given to the couple from a goblet, the ‘Common Cup’. The couple then walk around the altar table lead by the priest and the best man, once again three times. This is known as the Ceremonial Walk and is the couple’s first steps together married, with their guests showering them with rice, with the priest often holding the bible over his head to protect himself from the rice. With the walk over the priest says special prayers in Old Greek language of the 'Katharevousa' blessing the couple. 


The guests then make their way past the bride and groom congratulating them, and often the parents and best man stand alongside them where they collect the guests’ wedding present, which is often an envelope of cash normally called ‘fakelaki’. In other areas it is the norm to pin money to the brides wedding dress.


Traditionally, the bride wears the wedding ring on her left hand until the ceremony, when it is moved to her right hand.

In some areas of Greece guests to the wedding wear a traditional charm in the form of a small eye that protects the wedding celebrants from bad luck.

It is considered bad luck if the groom sees his bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony.

Each Greek reception has 'bonbonierres', almond candies covered in white chocolate or sugared almonds 'koufetta' . They are wrapped up in a netting and given to all the guests as they leave. Tradition dictates that there must be an odd number of sweets in each package.

  
 

THE RECEPTION

 

  
After the wedding service is the reception known as 'to trapezi' (the table) the wedding along with the reception is usually held in the evening when it is cooler. There is always more often than not live Cretan music, along with the wedding feast of local foods and wine.

It has been a long established tradition to wish the bride and groom a long life 'na zisete', or 'na zisoun' long life to them, to members of the bride and groom’s families. With them replying with 'sta dika sas' (to yours). 

Custom has it that the bride dances for much of the evening firstly with her new husband then the best man, then with family and friend. Of which their can be many often a few hundred or even more, this tradition dates back to when whole villages took part in local weddings in the village church and square.

Modern weddings today are held in popular restaurants sometimes expensive hotels, albeit many of the traditions are still followed.

 

 
 
 
 
 

Top
Top

 

 More Culture pages
: Easter : Christmas : Cretan Wedding : Baptism : Roadside Shrines : Kafenion : Periptero :
: Raki : Komboloy : Hunting Season : Black Veil : Cretan Dagger : Cretan Biscuit :
: Threshing Circles : Tavli : Puppet Theatre : The Mitato :

Home

 

Copyright © 2009 Only Crete