Tag Archives: Greek Orthodox

Clean Monday

3 Mar

Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

~Isaiah 1: 13-17

In the Greek Orthodox faith today is Καθαρά Δευτέρα — Clean Monday. Clean Monday is to Greek Orthodox believers what Ash Wednesday is to Catholic believers. It’s the start of Great Lent. Well, technically it begins at sunset the Sunday before.

Lent is thought of as a time of abstaining. We fast from meat and dairy. But it is more than that. It is also a time of taking on new, better habits. Today we not only wash ourselves from our past wrongdoings, but we work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.


The Mardi Gras of Greece

28 Feb


This weekend is the big Carnival weekend in Greece. Don’t let New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro get all the glory. Patras is the number 3 for Carnival.

Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.

Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!

This Year, Our Calendars Unite!

25 Feb

“Are you in a cult?” my friend once asked me.

My friend and I led a Protestant ministry for young adults, and I had mentioned that I actually celebrate Easter on a different day than most Protestants. Growing up, I had always celebrated Easter at the Greek Orthodox Church. Granted it was the only time of year my family went to the Greek Church (we went to a Protestant church the rest of the year), but we were pretty adamant about that being Easter.

No, I’m not in a cult, I sighed, aggravated that she would think that. In fact, there’s much more tradition and practical reason for celebrating Easter when I do.

The Greek Orthodox Church follows the old calendar system, the Julian calendar. Protestant and Catholics later decided to follow the new Gregorian calendar. What this means, though, is that sometimes Protestants and Catholics celebrate Easter before Jewish observers celebrate Passover. And if you know anything about these religions at all, you know that that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense since Jesus’ Last Supper is suggested to be a Passover meal.

This year, however, our calendars happen to coincide!

…I guess that means no discounted Easter candy for me this year.


  • For a very thorough explanation on the calendar differences by an esteemed authority, I recommend this article by Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos.
  • For a more conversational approach yet also thorough, I recommend “A Tale of Two Easters” by Borgna Brunner.

The Smell of Meat Lofting in the Air

20 Feb


Mmm… smell that smoky aroma? It can only mean one thing! Today is that special Greek holiday known as Tsiknopempti. Literally, it’s Charred Meat Thursday.

Yes, that’s right. We have a whole holiday devoted eating meat. Tsiknopempti is the preamble to Great Lent. Basically, you eat a whole lot of meat now because you’re going to be fasting for a long time. Longer, in fact, than the 40 days of Great Lent, since the meat fast starts ten days before that.

Do you fast?

Previous posts on Tsiknopempti:

Happy Tsiknopempti!

Hello, Carnival; Good-bye, Meat


A Perfect Morning to Jump Into the River

6 Jan

739px-Cross_being_thrown_at_Theophanyimage by Jim Maggas via Wikipedia

After a weekend of trudging through dirty city snow, I was surprised—and thankful!—this morning to discover the temperatures had risen enough to melt away the large icy barricades surrounding every crosswalk. I changed out of my snow boots and put on ballet flats. Ballet flats! In the winter! Even my puffy black jacket didn’t seem necessary, but perhaps that’s because a few days before it had been so cold I was wearing my jacket in my apartment.

The warmer winter temperatures had perfect timing. Today is the day in the Greek Orthodox religion where the priest throws a cross into the river and boys jump in to save it. We call it Theophany, but many religious New Yorkers would more likely know it as Epiphany. It refers to the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan River and is the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. You can read my explanation here.

I wouldn’t recommend actually jumping into the river yourself, but I have witnessed the Blessing of the Water ceremony. If you ever get a chance, it’s quite a sight to see here in New York City!

Friday Fun Fact: You Will See Lots of Candles This Weekend

3 May


You might think Easter already happened back in March, but if you’re Greek you know it’s this weekend. And with Greek Orthodox Easter comes the sight of men who don’t grow mustaches ironically and women who still believe in using lots of Aquanet carrying candles with little red wax-catching cups.

If you missed it last year, here’s my story about this tradition and wondering how to get a lit candle home if I can’t take an open flame on the subway.

Happy Birthday, Dimitri Mitropoulos

1 Mar

Happy birthday to Dimitris Mitropoulos! Born in Athens, the Greek composer began conducing the New York Philharmonic in 1949. He was raised Greek Orthodox and is remembered as being devout. From everything I’ve heard and read — I first heard about Mitropoulos through David Amram, who tells lots of stories about him in his books and remembers him fondly — Mitropoulos sounds like quite a character! To make music more accessible to the masses and reach a younger audience, Mitropoulos did a week of shows at the Roxy, a movie theatre in Times Square.



Greek-American Tina Andreadis Promoted to Senior VP of Publicity at HarperCollins

18 Jan

HarperCollins Publishers promoted Tina Andreadis to senior vice-president of publicity, according to Publishers Lunch.  Hired in 2005 as vice president, director of publicity, Andreadis oversees publicity for many of the publishing house’s imprints.

The Greek America Foundation named Andreadis as part of the Class of 2010 winners of the Forty Under 40; she was thirty-nine at the time. They noted:

Andreadis is very involved in philanthropic and media efforts on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In October 2009 she was a key member of the media team for Patriarch Bartholomew’s historic tour of the United States, working to promote his trip to America. Her influence helped secure an opinion piece by the Patriarch in the Wall Street Journal. Andreadis is an active member of Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons. There she is media chair for the future expansion of the church and a committee chairperson for the church’s annual festival in Southampton.

Congratulations to Tina Andreadis on her new role at HarperCollins!

The New York-based publishing house’s origins go as far back as 1817 when Harper & Brothers was founded and is now one of the largest publishing houses in the world. Side note: like most publishing houses, they have a history of publishing Beat Generation-related books, including Rub Out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs, 1959 – 1974  and Howl: A Graphic Novel.

Blessing of the Waters

6 Jan


This past year, we’ve seen the power of water when Hurricane Sandy hit, devastating homes, businesses, and even lives. And yet water remains critical to our existence:

  • About 57% of our body weight is water.
  • Approximately 88% of 1.8 million deaths a year is attributed to unsafe water supplies and sanitation and hygiene issues. Most of these deaths are in children.
  • Water covers about 70% of our planet.
  • Africans spend 40 billion hours just walking to get water every year. It is usually women and children who have the responsibility of fetching water, and this arduous task keeps them away from school.

Water is a dichotomy of life and death.

I once saw a priest in Brooklyn throw a cross into the muddy waters of the Hudson.  It was a frigid January day, yet a bunch of boys jumped into the river to save the cross.

What would possess a priest to throw a cross into the river?

Theophany; or, as most westerners call it, Epiphany.

The word “Theophany” comes from the Greek “τα Θεοφάνια,” which means “appearance of God,” and January 6 is the feast day that commemorates the incarnation of Jesus.  It celebrates His birth and baptism.

When St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.  God spoke from the heavens, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17, NIV).  It marked one of the very few times that all three characters of the Trinity—Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God—revealed themselves at the same time to man.

Jesus’ baptism marks His first step toward Crucifixion, according to Orthodox theology.

And so, on January 6, Orthodox priests throughout the world throw crosses, symbolic of Jesus’ crucifixion, into bodies of water, symbolic of His baptism.  This is called the Blessing of the Waters.  Volunteers jump into the water to retrieve the cross.  The priest, according to tradition, prays a blessing on the person who gets to the cross first and brings it back to him.

Here’s the Troparion (tone 4) from the Eve and Afterfeast hymn, which has some powerful imagery:

The River Jordan receded of old by the mantle of Elisha when Elijah ascended into heaven; and the water was separated to this side and that, the wet element turning into a dry path for Him, being truly a symbol of Baptism, by which we cross the path of transient age. Christ appeared in the Jordan to sanctify its waters.

Parts of this post were first published on my blog in 2011 and 2012.

I Am Crowned

27 Dec


Have you ever noticed that Greek families all seem to be named after the same relative? It’s customary in Greek culture to name the firstborn boy after his papou, the father’s father, and the firstborn girl after her yiayia, the father’s mother. Subsequent children are named after the mother’s side of the family.

According to the Greek Orthodox faith, though, children are supposed to be named after the saint whose feast day they are born on.

A child born on December 27 would be named after Saint Stephen. Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Church. However, after a vicious argument, he was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death by stoning. Standing up for himself and his beliefs, he said that those Church leaders were the very people who persecuted the prophets. He is now recognized as a martyr.

The name “Stephen” comes from the Greek word “stephanos,” which translates to “crowned.”

My birthday is not December 27 nor was my yiayia’s name Stephania, so my name is a bit of a break from the Greek culture. I’m actually named after my father’s stepfather.  And yes, family reunions can get a bit confusing, with my cousin Stefanos and I both responding to “Stef.”

Today I’ll be celebrating my name with my family!

How did you get your name? Do you celebrate your name day?