The art of crochet is intrinsically embedded in the Greek culture. This tradition goes way back in time. Along with cross-stitching, knitting and weaving with a loom.
In the old days they were the women's (and girls') favorite pastime, as well as, duty/qualification to know how to. They started at a young age in order to fill their dowry chest. On their wedding day it was all shown off to the guests so that all can see how gifted the bride is (a sign that she will be a good housewife, as well !?)
This has been long surpassed now and even though the grandmothers kept crocheting, doilies have been out of fashion for a couple of decades (at least). Lately, though, they're making a big comeback and not just for decorating little coffee tables and other furniture. One can see them being used in various ways. People have been using crochet techniques to make earrings and other jewellery, scarves, Xmas ornaments, blankets and pillow cases, curtains or the finishings of curtains, to decorated totes, frames, blouses, hats, dresses, cardigans, bookmarks, even bikinis!... Check out the following links for amazing ideas:
As you might well imagine I, too, have lots of crochet creations done by my very talented mommy and it's time I pull them out of my drawers and start using them and, yes, showing them off! She has done an incredible work and some designs she picked up just by looking at them and figuring out the pattern herself. For someone like me, who has no idea of crocheting, I say WOW!!!
Here's a part of what my mommy has done:
(I'll be showing you more in future posts)
"A UNIVERSAL GREEK"
Greece and the whole world of the film-making industry mourns today the loss of the famous and multi-award winning film-maker and director Theodore Angelopoulos.
The celebrated director, aged 76, was shooting his new film "The Other Sea" when he was hit by a motorcycle last night, sustaining serious head injuries that led to his death.
Described as mild-mannered but uncompromising, Angelopoulos' often sad and slow-moving films mostly dealt with issues from Greece's turbulent recent history: war, exile, immigration and political division.
Angelopoulos began his career in 1968 and he enjoyed success as a director, producer and screenwriter for more than four decades.
He became known for his work on political Greek films like "The Hunters" and "The Travelling Players", which landed him a string of European awards including Best Film of the Year by the British Film Institute.
His other works include "Voyage to Cythera", "Ulysses' Gaze" and "Landscape in the Mist", which scored him the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at 1988's Venice Film Festival in Italy.
In 1995, he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for "Ulysses' Gaze," starring American actor Harvey Keitel.
Three years later, he won the prestigious Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film festival for "Eternity and a Day," starring Swiss actor Bruno Ganz.
He was awarded 49 times in his lifetime receiving every important award there is in the film industry.
Angelopoulos mostly attracted art-house audiences, using established actors such as Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau in two of his most widely acclaimed films, "The Bee Keeper" and "The Suspended Stride of the Stalk."
His distinctive trademarks were:
*Extremely long, elaborately staged takes
*Shots in his films often drift back and forth in time
*Often shoots with rainy, wintry and moody weather in
*Uses long, static takes combined with complex tracking
shots and beautiful landscape photography
Theodore Angelopoulos is a great loss for Greece and not only!!! R.I.P.
TO DIET OR NOT TO DIET
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS GREECE?
Beyond sharing my thoughts and recipes I will also be sharing photos and cultural info about Greece. In order to get to know me you should know where I "come from". To get a clearer picture of where in the world I live I have posted 3 maps to help you locate Greece and me.
1. Map of the world
2. Map of Europe
(Greece is in the bottom right corner in purple colour)
3. Map of Greece
This is Greece. A small country with 11.000.000 people with big hearts!
Be careful of your thoughts, cause they become desires.
Be careful of your desires, cause they become actions.
Be careful of your actions, cause they become habits.
Be careful of the habits, cause they form character.
And character cannot change. It is who you are!
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
New Year's resolution: a commitment that a person's makes to one or more personal goals/projects, a commitment to self-improvement...
"May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions!"
"Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits."
Making New Year's Resolutions goes way back in time to the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their Gods at the start of each year to return any borrowed objects and pay off their debts. Today's resolutions are more about self-improvement:
- lose weight/exercise more
- eat better
- quit a bad habit such as smoking
- get out of debt/save money
- improve grades
- become more organised/ manage time
- declutter/ renovate the house, etc.
From The Bridget Jones Diary
"I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second..."
Now that the new year already counts 8 days it is time to reconsider our new year's resolutions. As a matter of fact, it is my opinion that it's the perfect time to set or reset and re-evaluate the goals we had set by December 31st. Before and during the holidays we are in a state of emotional exuberance and make our New Year's resolutions with great enthusiasm and zeal. After the holiday fanfare recedes and we gradually go back to our routine it becomes clearer what we really want to accomplish in the new year. We are more aware of our true needs and can think more thoroughly about how we're going to do it. NOW is the time to set our goals.
As I mentioned in the beginning, researches claim that most us will fail. Soooo! Is that going to discourage me from making my New Year's Resolutions? Absolutely NOT. If I fail, I will try again! I can be as stubborn as bad habits!!!
Success is greatly a matter of willpower but also, of good planning. This year we have to back our resolutions with the proper planning. Pursuing a goal without good planning is immature and frivolous and leading to sure failure.
- without proper planning your resolution will fail
- be realistic: make an attainable goal
- don't make a long list of resolutions (keep the list very, VERY short and focus on one goal at a time
- give yourself time/ don't expect instant success - if you fail, try again
- keep your willpower strong by constantly reminding yourself the benefits of succeeding in your resolution
On the 5th, 6th and 7th of January we celebrate the "Lights" (Fota) since God is Light and has appeared to illuminate those who sit in darkness. Theofania (Epiphany) on the 6th of January is the last of the 12 days of Christmas and it's the day of purification of the people's souls.
On the 5th we go to church where the great blessing/purification takes place in the temple. We all receive the Holy Water in tiny bottles and take it home where we spray it all over the house in order to become "purified" and blessed. Then we also drink some, too. In some small villages the priest himself visits all the houses to bless them with the Holy Water. This also is the time when the Kalikantzaroi (Trolls) leave (read related post).
After church the children go caroling (as they did on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve) to the neighboring houses receiving sweets and money.
On the 6th of January we celebrate the Theofania ( or Epiphany or The Blessing of the Waters). It is a very important holiday as it celebrates the Holy Trinity through the Baptism of the Lord, God the Father spoke from Heaven about the Son and the Son was baptized by St. John the Baptist as the Holy Spirit descended upon the Son in the form of a dove. At some point during the sermon at church a long procession is formed following the priest at whatever road leads to a body of water-a lake, a river, the ocean or if that is not possible to a special tank outside the church. There the priest while chanting hymns throws the cross into the water. The church bells ring and white doves are freed into the sky as daring young men dive into the cold waters to catch the cross. Whoever finds the cross is said to be blessed and to have good luck throughout the coming year.
The most spectacular ceremonies happen at ports where little boats and ships gather in a semicircular fashion blowing their horns accompanying the hymns sung by the church choir
Please watch a related video :
Greek folklore has it that there are little, evil, hairy creatures named Kalikantzaroi (trolls), that live in the center of the earth and all year long using a big saw they try to cut down the tree of life that holds/carries the planet.
They are ugly and mischievous and they are afraid of the fire and the holy water. During the 12 days of Christmas they come up to the surface of the earth to bother and annoy people, playing tricks on them and causing trouble. On Epiphany Day (see related post) when the people and priest spray Holy Water they disappear immediately going back to the center of the earth only to find that the tree has fully grown back and they have to start all over again till next year!
These are stories grandmothers used to say to scare kids into behaving well during the holidays.
CELEBRATING NAME DAYS
Most of the days in the Greek calendar we celebrate saints f.e. St. John's Day, St. George's Day, etc. and since in Greece 90% of the Greek population is Greek orthodox Christians who are named after a saint you can imagine that when we celebrate a saint the people named after him/her also celebrate. For example, on St. Dimitrios Day everybody named Dimitrios or Dimitra celebrate as well. These are called name days.
Name days are just as (if not more) important than our birthdays and they are a much anticipated event each year. It is an occasion to receive visitors or go visiting. The people who celebrate are the hosts who receive presents just like at birthdays and treat their visitors to sweets and drinks and sometimes even have big, fancy dinner parties.
Greeks traditionally have very close family and friendship relationships and these celebrations help to bring us even closer.
To learn if your name is included in the celebration list, or to see when a Greek friend's name day occurs, check this listing of name days by month:
To learn if your name is included in the celebration list, or to see when a Greek friend's name day occurs, check this listing of name days by month:
Pothariko (first foot or first step)
One of the many customs Greece has is the Pothariko, which in Great Britain is called "the first foot". It has to do with the very first person entering the house in the new year. This person must be a good-natured, lucky person in order to bring good luck to the house. Therefore this person is usually carefully picked by the homeowners to do so. They often choose their kids as they are considered innocent, good souls.
The person entering the house must do so with their right foot first so that everything will go "right" for the household the whole year. Upon entering the house he or she throws with force a pomegranate to the floor and as it splatters all over the place s/he wishes that the house will have such an abundance of health, joy and goods all year long!
Of course such customs are considered by many as superstitions, still, we like keeping them alive! Traditions/customs are something we all ought to keep and continue honoring, because they're part of our identity and culture and also because they make the holidays unique and more enjoyable!
1/2 cup milk (room temperature)
1 cup butter softened
2 cups sugar
500 gr (appr. 6 cups) all- purpose flour
4-5 tsp baking powder
orange juice from 2 oranges (appr. 1/2 glass)
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 finely chopped apple
1/2 cup Cognac (Metaxa) or Brandy
1 1/2 tbs orange zest
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cinnamon stick
Marinate from the night before in a bowl the cognac, the orange zest, the orange juice, the walnuts, the apple and 1 cinnamon stick.
The next day, in a large bowl blend (beat) the sugar with butter until it becomes fluffy white. Then add the eggs one by one. Add slowly the marinated mixture (after removing the cinnamon stick) and the flour sifted together with the baking powder, the vanilla extract and gradually the milk. Beat for another 2-3 minutes. Pour the batter into a greased and flour sprinkled round pan. Bake in pre-heated oven (325 degrees F or 165 degrees C) for about 70 minutes or until done. After it's baked place the coin (that you have previously wrapped in foil) anywhere you choose in a vertical position and a litle deep. Then flip the pie/cake upside down on a platter (do that with the help of the platter) and after it has cooled down sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Your vasilopita is ready!
P.S. Placing the coin in the batter before it's baked will result in the coin sinking to the bottom (wich will be later the top) and showing!
Happy New Year to all !!! May 2012 bring us all health and joy.
The holidays are basically over and now it's time to get back to work even though here in Greece we have another big holiday coming on the 6th of January the Theofania (Epiphany). There's no work on that day and all the stores are closed as well ( I will explain Theofania in another upcoming post).
The pie you see in the photo is called Vasilopita which means St. Basil's pie. It's a traditional New Year's pie that every household bakes for this day and it's the first thing we eat so that everything will be sweet in the new year. Inside the pie there's a coin hidden. At midnight when the year changes the father or grandfather using a knife symbolically carves a cross over the pie 3 times before slicing it. Every slice is dedicated or called for a specific person. The first slice belongs to Christ, the second slice to the Virgin Mary, the third slice to St. Vasilios, the fourth slice goes to the poor and thereafter every slice goes from the oldest to the youngest in the family and guests present. The last piece just belongs to the house. Whoever finds the coin in his/her slice is considered to be the lucky one of the year. If the coin is in one of the first four slices then it is offered to the church or someone who is poor.
It is said that St. Vasilios (St. Basil) was a well-educated and wealthy man who gave all his fortune to help the poor and needy people. One story says that in order to help out the poor without insulting them or embarrassing them he devised this trick of making little pies and hiding a coin in them before offering them the pies. In time this little pie was named after him and was an offering of joy and blessings.
Also, we celebrate St.Vasilios on the 1st of January and everybody named Vasilios or Vasiliki (the female version) celebrate as well receiving gifts and wishes just like a birthday! (read post about Name Days)
Check out my post with the Vasilopita recipe!