Traditions & Celebrations

Christenings, weddings and other celebrations

Cretan customs and traditions.

Christenings, weddings and other celebrations

Christenings and weddings in Crete are usually a big occasion and cause for a big celebration and party atmosphere, meaning anything from 50 to 3000 guests. The wedding ceremony is a very complicated and serious affair, but at the same time, everything is very relaxed.

Since there is no room for all at once in the church, people just wander in and out, conversing and smoking. All the guests are given a small gift, at a wedding it is often a small tulle bag with sugared almonds and at christening, it is often a framed picture of the child.
After the ceremony the guests pass by the couple or the parents, congratulating and handing over the gift; an envelope containing 20 -50 Euro. This means that the newlyweds are able to start family life in comfort, and the parents of the christened child are able to pay for the big party.

Food and wine in large quantities are served following the lengthy church service and is followed by traditional Greek dancing.
According to tradition, the bride’s family dances first, then the family of the groom, followed by friends of the bride, then friends of the groom. When these dances are over, the other guests are now free to join in the dancing. At these parties, it is customary that the dancing men make a donation to the musicians.

Name days and birthdays

From ancient time name days have been celebrated instead of birthdays, It is still like that in the villages, while in the cities birthdays are celebrated more and more nowadays. Every day has 2 names, one male and one female; the name day is celebrated much like a birthday, guests – food and party.

At the big celebrations, the gift consists usually of money. Only the closest family and closest of friends give anything but money. You can, however, give a “real” gift at a name day or for the hostess. The gift Will usually not be opened while the guest is in the house. It is considered impolite. It is all about the guest, not the gift.

Dancing and music

Where to experience real Cretan music and dancing?
From May and way into September, many different events and village festivities are arranged. E.g. parties, concerts and competitions in dancing, music or cooking. The parties are primarily for the local population, but guests are more than welcome. At these village festivities, people come from near and far, whatever the occasion Cretan music is an important part of the entertainment. You will find posters in tavernas, kafenions and on lampposts that announce where and when you can find the festivities.

Other places to experience Cretan music and dancing are tavernas and bars, particularly in the bigger cities. Several places advertise music and dancing- and any “good” discothèque has Cretan music late at night.

More about Cretan dancing and music

Folk dancing in Crete is acknowledged everywhere as something special as in contrast to elsewhere around the globe, it is not just staged for the sake of the tourist but it is a part of the festive side of life. It is not unusual to find that these festivities carry on into the early hours of the morning.
The Cretan dances are bound by traditions; it is no coincidence who is to start and who is to end the chain. At weddings, there is a fixed order for who is to dance and when.
Very often a whole family or parties will “pay” for a dance, and it is considered impolite to participate unless you are invited, however later at night everybody is normally welcome to take part.
Being a guest you are supposed to follow customs and traditions, and not join in on the dancing before the traditional dances are finished, but please make sure that you do not place your self in front of the chain as this is considered to be an act of ignoring the order of the dance, you have to follow the lead dancer at all times.
Most Cretan dances are performed in chains or circles, holding on to each other’s shoulders. The small steps and jumps are more complex than what they seem at first glance. The leader of the dance is the one who can impress with acrobatic jumps and difficult steps. For the young man has an outstanding chance to impress and catch the attention of his loved one and friends alike.

The most common Cretan dances

There are especially 5 dances, that each has a local character. These are found in most parts of Crete. Pediktos and Siganos originate from the area of Iraklion, Pentozalis, and Sousta from Rethimnon and Sitos Haniotiko from Chania. The dances are mostly into a 2/4 beat.
Pidiktos or Maleveuziotikos is the most common Cretan dance. It is a very fast and difficult dance – the steps are small and quick and typical for Crete; up on your forefoot!! It requires endurance. It is a chain dance and danced by both men and women.
Siganos is a wedding dance; originally it was the first dance after the ceremony at the church square.
Pentozalis meaning 5 steps, an exciting, and varied dance, and one of the most popular. It’s a very powerful dance, which requires endurance and skill. Especially for the leading man who jumps up high and with his hands, slaps thighs and feet in a fast and furious movement. The dance is also danced by women but in a subtler manner, and naturally without the high jumps.
Sousta, which in contrast to the other dances is a dance for pairs, can easily develop into a semi flirtation. Sirtos is also an extremely popular dance, danced to hundreds of different tunes and songs.