Religion and being Greek

I know religion is such a hot topic most of the time.  Recently I was home with the little one on a Sunday morning and two kind individuals took the time to come knock on my door and want to invite me to Jesus’ funeral.  They had a paper invitation and everything.  Now as a woman who spent 12 years in Catholic School, 4 years in a Jesuit College, countless years as a Sunday School student and teacher and a lifetime at Sunday Mass, I’m not one to shy away from a conversation around religion.   While I thanked the individuals for stopping by and their invitation I let them know I’d happily invite them to come to my church the week after their ‘funeral’ (I am Greek Orthodox after all) and see a funeral done properly.  One that includes flowers, an Ἐπιτάφιο, chanting, etc.  I also told them I’d happily host them on Holy Saturday night for midnight mass and they can be part of the amazing service where the church lights and candles are all turned off/put out and the priest comes out with the Αγιο Φος (Holy Light) to represent Jesus’ resurrection.  Needless to say the individuals left and took their invitation with them as they had no desire to speak about religion but rather just wanted to tell me about their religion.

This got me thinking about all of the wonderful traditions that we’re about to embark on with the little lady for the first time.  Not only are we about to celebrate του Ευαγγελισμου and Greek Independence Day tomorrow but also the important Easter traditions that will be coming soon after that.  As a Greek it is special because I know that I’ll be passing down traditions that have been passed down from generations.  From Palm Sunday Mass to dying red Easter eggs on Holy Thursday, to making κουλουρακια with γιαγια, I can’t wait to see the excitement in her eyes.

I was able to find this site of Greek Poems which brought me back to my Greek School days and the events that we’d have.  Dressed up in our Vasilissa Amalia outfits and the boys as τσολιαδες, standing in front of the community and reciting poems that our parents recited before us.  Remembering the struggles and just having an overall sense of pride.  My father served as an Evzone in the Greek Army.  He stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and represented Greece abroad.  He did his part for his country.  I can only hope that one day my daughter understands what this meant.  This will be done by more than just standing on a parade route and shouting Ζητο!  This will be done by living our Greekness.

A friend once said that he didn’t want to be a plate breaking, τιροπιτα eating Greek.  I say bring that on because it is part of who we are, but don’t stop there.  Let’s teach the next generation about the history of then and the history that is taking shape in Greece today.  Let’s remind them that Greece is more than φραππεδες and beautiful beaches.  Let’s do our job and raise the next generation of ελληνακια right!

For my friends celebrating in Toronto you can find parade information here.  For my friends celebrating in Boston you can find parade information here.

1 greek flag (Small)

 

Ζητο η 25η Μαρτιου!  Ζητο η Ελευθερία!
Η Ελλαδα ποτε δεν πεθενει!

Roula

A little ditty about Jack and Diane...no really in all seriousness I'm a daughter, sister, wife and mother. I'm a Greek-American, who has transplanted in Canada. As a first time mom I'm sharing some things as I go along.

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Blessed are the children…

Hello everyone,

It is so hard to believe that in a bit over a month our bundle of joy will be here.  That is if they aren’t stubborn and follow the “timeline”.  I’m packed and ready as they tell me you never know when the time will come.  Saying all that I wanted to take some time to discuss something that is very important in the Greek Orthodox faith and that is the 40-day blessing.  Similar to Jesus’ presentation to the temple, the thought is that you bring your child to church at the 40 day mark to be blessed by the priest.  Forty days after birth and in accordance with the Old Testament tradition observed by the Virgin Mary (Luke 2:22-24), the mother brings her child for its first visit to the Church. If they are a boy they are entered into the altar as well.  The Greek Orthodox Church still has a closed altar and females are not allowed to enter.  Certainly I have thought about having my child receive this blessing but as the time gets closer for our little one to arrive I wonder what does this really mean?  Will I be stuck in the house for 40 days without being able to leave ever?  I asked this question and some others to some of my girlfriends who have agreed to serve as ‘blog collaborators’ on certain subjects.  Certainly they have MUCH more experience in mommyhood than I do and I am so excited to be able to share all of this with them.

Question 1: Did you bring your child to church to be blessed on or around the 40th day and your thoughts on the overall blessing?
          One friend says, “I did bring both my children to be blessed around the 40th day and I really enjoyed the experience.  It was a chance for the baby to have an official outing, go to church and be introduced to the community.  It was an important milestone for me!”
Another friend says,  “I have had all three of my children brought to church for a blessing.  It was more towards to the 30 days, our priest does allow you to bring them a bit sooner.  I wanted to get them blessed because I have a strong faith and always seek God’s help in my daily life.”
Yet another friend stated that before her second child received their 40 day blessing she went to church for a Μνημόσυνο (memorial service) for her Godfather’s passing.  When she was spotted by the church secretary, she was shocked to see my friend and asked why she was there.  She explained and later found out that the blessing is as much about the mother as it is the baby.  She apparently wasn’t supposed to step inside of the church prior to the 40 day blessing.  She didn’t know this and felt anxious the entire time leading up to the blessing thinking something “bad” was going to happen to the baby or me.  Nothing did of course!

Question 2: Who went with you for the blessing? 
One friend said, “…whomever was available: husband, yiayiathes, and other children.”  Another states, “The godfather and yiayia came for my first child and the grandparents and godparents came for the second child. ” Yet another states, “…my husband for my first and my husband and older child for my second…I learned that our priest does not like it at all for other family members to attend.”

Question 3: Did you stay at home the entire 39 days leading up to your child’s blessing? Or did you go out but baby didn’t?
One friend says, “At first I scoffed at the idea not understanding the reasoning behind it, I chalked it up to superstition.  However after two pregnancies I realizes that a woman does need time to recover after her pregnancies.  I did find myself staying in most of the time when it was possible.”
A few friends stated that they went out but baby did not unless it was for an appointment with the doctor.  And yet another did venture out of the house before the baby was blessed but only during the day.

In reading all of this I found it interesting the differences between churches, priests and countries.  One friend stated that her aunt in Athens said something about the 40 day blessing now being 20 days staying at home but she didn’t doubt for a second that her deeply religious cousin stayed in the entire period.  Some priests do the blessing as part of the ceremony after the Sunday services and others have the family come in on a Saturday so the blessing is more private.

I always wonder if sometimes we Greeks of the diaspora have held on to these traditions more closely than our Greek counterparts.   Simply because we were brought up with the traditions of Greece circa 1950/60/70/80 or whatever year our parents immigrated to their new country.  They held on to this Greekness so tight in order to not lose their Greek identity and instilled in us these values and traditions.  I know that it is important for my husband and me to have our child blessed and start his/her life in the Greek Orthodox Church.  Whether or not I stay in the house for the 39 days prior or even if baby does, I’ll fill you in once that is happening.  Did you have your child receive the 40 day blessing?  Did you stay in or go out during this time?  I’d love it if you shared with me!

I did find a great section of Myth busters on a church site in Australia.  If you want to check them out, click here and go to the Myths ‘busted’ about Birth and Baptism section,

 

Roula

A little ditty about Jack and Diane...no really in all seriousness I'm a daughter, sister, wife and mother. I'm a Greek-American, who has transplanted in Canada. As a first time mom I'm sharing some things as I go along.

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