Facts About Greek Easter | Pascha in Greece

Does the Easter bunny visit Greece to hide colorful eggs on Easter? Is Greek Easter celebrated at the same time as Catholic Easter? What are some common Greek Easter traditions? Today Helinika answers some of the most common questions regarding Greek Easter celebrations.

What Is The Greek Easter?

Greece celebrates Christian holidays according to Christian Orthodox traditions. Orthodoxy, along with Catholicism and Protestantism, is one of the three main Christian groups. And it is most prevalent in Eastern Europe. Easter is a very important religious celebration among all Christian groups; it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the victory of life over death.

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Greek Easter Dates: When Do Greeks Celebrate Easter?

Just like most Christian countries, Greece celebrates Easter on the Sunday that follows the Spring or Paschal full moon. The main difference here is that, when it comes to Easter, the Orthodox Church follows the Julian instead of the Gregorian calendar. That means that Easter in Greece normally falls between the 4th of April and the 8th of May. Since the other two prominent Christian groups follow the Gregorian calendar, Catholic and Protestant Easter rarely coincide with Orthodox Easter.

How Is “Easter” Called in Greek?

The Greek name for Easter is “Πάσχα” (Pascha), a term that derives from the Jewish word “Pesach”, meaning “Passover”. That is because Easter is celebrated after the Jewish Passover and it is always calculated based on the Paschal full moon.

Other Greek names for Easter are “Λαμπρή” (Labri), meaning “bright” or “glowing”, and “Ανάσταση” (Anastasi), meaning “Resurrection”.

Is It Common to Fast Before Greek Easter?

Orthodox Christians are required to go through a mental and physical preparation that lasts 40 days and ends with the Anastasi. This preparation, known as Lent in other countries, includes a type of fasting. Greeks try to eliminate thoughts and actions of hate and violence from their daily lives. They also exclude certain food groups from their diet – mostly animal products. This fasting is called “nistea” and Greek restaurants and shops always include nistea-friendly foods during this period.

Today, many people choose to exclude meat and dairy from their diet only during the last week before Easter Sunday. That is the “Evdomada ton Pathon” or “Megali Evdomada” – which is called “Holy Week” in English. Once the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is announced in the early hours of Easter Sunday, the nistea ends. People are free to celebrate by consuming foods that are high in proteins and fats, such as eggs and lamb.

What is the Holy Fire or Hagio Phos?

On the Eve of Easter Sunday, just before midnight, Greek Orthodox Christians visit their local Church holding flameless candles. Children usually receive their candles from their godparents, along with other treats. Believers gather at the church awaiting the Resurrection and the Hagio Phos or Holy Fire.

The Holy Fire is a recurring miracle that occurs every year in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem, at the place where it is believed that Jesus was buried and resurrected. Believers await the fire that lights spontaneously on this exact spot every Holy Saturday. The flame is then transported to Greece by a special flight and received by Church and state leaders in a ceremonial way. It is then distributed all over Greece and given to the masses by the priests at midnight. Since the priests can’t light each individual’s candle, each person receives the flame from one another – an act that symbolizes the unity of the group.

Does The Easter Bunny Come to Greece?

No, the Easter Bunny and the hunting for colorful eggs is not a Greek Easter tradition. Children rarely receive chocolate Easter bunnies during that time. On the contrary, they receive chocolate eggs from their godparents, along with their Easter candles.

Although painting eggs is a Greek Easter tradition, you will rarely see pink, green, or patterned eggs. The only color that is deemed traditional is the color of blood: dark red. This color symbolizes life and it is the most appropriate color for the celebration of the victory of life over death.

What Are Some Common Greek Easter Traditions?

There are many Greek Easter traditions that have survived to this day. For example. Just moments after the announcement of the Resurrection on the night before Easter Sunday, it is common to light the sky with fireworks. In some places, some unique events take place, such as an exchange of “rockets” between local churches (you can see them all on our dedicated page).

Most traditions, however, revolve around food. After the Anastasi, it is common to eat “Mageiritsa”, a soup made of lamb and vegetables. On Easter Sunday, it is a tradition to roast lamb with the whole family in the countryside. It is also common to play a game by trying to crack each other’s hard-boiled eggs by lightly tapping them against each other.

What Are Some Foods Greeks Enjoy on Easter Sunday?

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Untold Stories from Athens, Greece

stories athens

Each city has its obvious, well-known places and landmarks. Athens, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece, has the Acropolis Hill, Syntagma square, the Agora, and so many other historical sites and attractions. Today, we discover some hidden, secret stories that are tied to some of the most popular Athenian landmarks. These stories include creative assassination plans, ancient curses, and hidden rivers.

Stories Behind Popular Attractions in Athens:

  1. Monkey Attacks the King of Greece at the National Gardens
  2. The Magic Olive Tree on the Acropolis Hill
  3. Ancient Curses and “Voodoo” Objects in Kerameikos
  4. Tricking Ancient Athenians To Becoming Active Citizens… With A Rope

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Tricking Ancient Athenians into Becoming Active Citizens… With A Rope

The first story behind a popular Athenian attraction takes place in the ancient Agora of Athens and the Pnyx; both places can be visited in the Greek capital. The Agora of Athens was a marketplace and meeting point for ancient Athenians. The Pnyx was a place designated for public speaking and hosting assemblies during the years of direct Athenian Democracy.

According to some historical records from Thucydides – but mostly from plays written by the ancient comedian Aristophanes – we get the impression that ancient Athenians loved to discuss politics but often despised attending the assemblies. Sometimes, when they were called to attend the ecclesia (the citizen’s assembly) at the Pnyx, they would stay at the agora, gossiping and engaging in casual conversations.

It is said that in order to encourage the citizens to engage in political conversations and vote on important subjects, certain people were assigned a peculiar task. They would grab a rope that was painted red that they called “μεμιλτωμένον σχοινίον” and start walking across the agora, forcing the crowd to follow them. They would basically herd the citizens towards Pnyx to attend the meetings.

Since we mostly know of the so-called “μεμιλτωμένον σχοινίον” from an ancient comedian, this story is often considered exaggerated. Some scholars believe that the red rope story was told by oligarchs who wanted to diminish the importance of the ecclesia. However, everyone agrees that there is… some truth to it.  

Ancient Curses and “Voodoo” Objects in Kerameikos

Kerameikos neighborhood is known for an archaeological site that includes parts of the “Iear Odos, the Sacred Way, the led Athenian to Eleusis for the Eleusinian Mysteries. They were held by a cult dedicated to goddess Demeter and Persephone and its members believed that they could reveal secrets about the afterlife.

The archaeological site also includes the ancient necropolis of Athens. Necropolis means “city of the dead” in Greek. It used to be the cemetery of Athens from the 9th century BC till the Roman era.  People can visit the area and observe the tombstones of that time.

Perhaps, the most interesting part of this site is the museum that preserves and showcases the artifacts that were found in the burial ground. Some of these artifacts reveal a secretive and lesser-known aspect of the daily lives of ancient Athenians. If you visit the museum, you will not only see pottery, jewelry, and offerings to the dead, but also some… stone tablets with curses that aimed to inflict harm on people.

Although witchcraft practices were banned in classical Athens, certain people would seek help from the paranormal to take revenge on those who wronged them or to cause harm to their political and legal opponents. In one of these tablets, for example, a man is requesting to have his opponent’s tongue tied during his speech in court.

The reason why the people buried these curse tablets in graves is related to the belief that the souls of the dead would carry them in the underworld. Hades was not just housing human souls. It was also the home of chthonic deities, such as Hecate. The latter is a goddess associated with the darkness and witchcraft. She would supposedly gather the tablets and she would then decide whether she would make them come true.

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The Magic Olive Tree on the Acropolis Hill

If you visit the Acropolis Hill of Athens, the sacred hill of the Greek capital, you will not only the Parthenon, but also the Erectheion. It is a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon, the gods who competed against each other for the title of the protector of Athens.

As the name of the city suggests, Athena was the winner. That was because she made an offer Athenians couldn’t reject: the olive tree. According to the myth, the citizens saw a business opportunity in exporting olive oil all over the Mediterranean. They voted for Athena and she introduced the first olive tree in Athens.

Believe it or not, this olive tree can be found next to the Erectheion to this day. Of course, we do not know whether it was in fact created by an ancient Greek goddess. But we do know that it is somehow connected to the olive tree that ancient Athenians worshipped as such.

You may notice that this particular olive tree is quite slender and doesn’t look old enough. That’s because the tree reportedly spawned from a branch from the original sacred olive tree that was partly destroyed during World War II.

 Monkey Attacks the King of Greece in Athens

Perhaps the most peculiar story that takes place in Athens is the factual monkey attack against King Alexander of Greece in 1920. King Alexander was a 27-year-old who was stripped of his powers by the liberal party of Greece and who was used as a “puppet-king”, according to historians.

One day, he decided to take one of his long walks with his dog in nature. Some say that he took his walk in the Royal Gardens of Athens that are now known as “National Gardens”. Others suggest that he took his walk in Tatoi Forest which surrounded the estate of the former Greek Royal Family.

During his walk, Alexander came face to face with two… monkeys that got scared by the barks of his dog. One of the monkeys tried to attack his dog, while the other ran towards the king and bit him on his leg. The wound didn’t seem serious at first. However, it soon got infected by bacteria, leading to sepsis. The doctors could save him by amputating his leg, however, this option was denied. An amputated king would give off a weak image of Greece, according to those in power.

The event was so peculiar that rumors started spreading. Some believed that the monkey attack was an assassination that was carefully planned by his opponents. Monkeys are not native in Greece after all. It is said that they belonged to the botanist who took care of the National Gardens and the Forest of Tatoi. He has imported them from Africa and kept them as pets.

The attack occurred during the years of the Greco-Turkish War which aimed at regaining regions in Asia Minor that were part of the Byzantine Empire. According to historians, this attack ended up creating a political turmoil that resulted in the Great Fire of Smyrna two years later. As well as the exchange of populations between the two countries, with the exodus of Greek refugees to mainland Greece. This is why Winston Churchill once wrote that: “it is perhaps no exaggeration to remark that a quarter of a million persons died of this monkey’s bite.”

Mysterious Places in Thessaloniki | Mysterious Greece

 The second most populated city in Greece is located in the northern part of the country. Named after the sister of Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki is a city rich in history.  But it’s also one of the most mysterious places in Greece. After discovering the mysteries of Athens and the Greek islands, today we unearth the most exciting, peculiar, and dark parts of the “nymph of the Thermaic Gulf”, as the city is called. Keep in mind that these are real locations in Thessaloniki; but the stories surrounding them are based on rumors, rather than facts.

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4 Mysterious Places in Thessaloniki, Greece:

  1. Kipoi tou Pasha (Pasha’s Gardens)
  2. Odos Mavris Petras (Black Rock Street)
  3. The Red House of Thessaloniki
  4. The Roman Hippodrome

The Cursed Roman Hippodrome

June 20, 1978, was unusually hot. People in Thessaloniki were already preparing for the night. Some were returning home after meeting with friends. Others were getting ready for bed and way too many were already sleeping. Or, perhaps, the heat kept them restless, tossing and turning for hours. But that summer night gave them another reason to stay awake.

At 23:03, the whole city was shaken to its core. Literally. An earthquake of 6.2/6.5 magnitude, which was later described as “severe” (VIII Mercalli intensity), had hit Thessaloniki. Hundreds of people were injured and thousands of buildings either collapsed or appeared to have irreparable damages. But this earthquake was also deadly. It took the lives of 49 people (estimate), most of whom were trapped in the same block of flats at the heart of the city.

Earthquakes are not a common occurrence in Thessaloniki. After the incident, many rumors spread around the city. Many locals found it odd that the biggest tragedy occurred in one apartment building. A building that was rumored to be cursed by the souls of tens of thousands of innocent people that were executed at that same spot in 392 AD.

According to some locals, the building was built at the center of what once was the Roman Hippodrome of Thessaloniki, parts of which have survived over the years. In 392 AD, the Roman emperor Theodosius the Great reportedly ordered the execution of approximately 7.000-18.000 innocent people. The hippodrome was the only place he could gather them all. He wanted to make a show of strength, after being criticized by the public for his extreme taxation measures and brutal suppression methods. A group of locals had also attacked a group of Goths who were used by Theodosius to gather the taxes.

The scene was brutal. According to the rumors, the marble floor of the hippodrome was soaked in the blood of those executed. The locals were not allowed to pay tribute to the dead, leaving thousands of souls restless. Eventually, family members of the victims found the courage to pay tribute to them; an act that became an annual tradition, that was later followed by complete strangers. They built a column with the names of all the victims that, according to an urban legend, it bled once a year.

Centuries passed by and the city of Thessaloniki now looked much different than how it looked in the 4th Century AD. A block of flats made of cement stood to the exact spot where the column once stood. However, few people were willing to reside there. Rumor had it that every new family that moved there, would receive a book with the history of the neighborhood. Locals said that certain apartment walls would bleed once a year, with the residents getting used to this phenomenon. On that day, strange people would visit the area to sing hymns in old Greek.

This building no longer exists. It was the one that collapsed after the earthquake of 1978, taking the lives of 37 people. On the exact same spot that the marble was once soaked in the blood of thousands of innocent people. The story blends history with mythology. What we do know is that the area covering the old hippodrome of Thessaloniki is one of the city’s most mysterious places.

The Red House of Thessaloniki

Many Greek cities, including Athens, failed to maintain their old charm. Their architectural wonders, such as their neoclassical buildings, have been destroyed or left to rot. But Thessaloniki might be an exception. The second most populated Greek city is known for its prestigious architectural gems. By strolling through the city you will find many Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Eclectic buildings from the late 19th Century.

A building that stands out is the so-called “Red House” of Thessaloniki. The three-story mansion has a distinct red brick exterior, hence its name. In reality, it is called “Megaro Longou” (Longos Mansion) and it has been listed by the Greek Ministry of Culture for preservation. The architectural style is described as “Neobyzantine”.

The building is located in Agias Sofias Square in the center of Thessaloniki. It was designed in 1926 to house the wealthy family of Grigorios Longos, a textile industrialist. As soon as the mansion was built, the Longos family reportedly went bankrupt. The same happened to the company that constructed the building. Although this era is known as the Great Depression, rumors spread regarding the hypothetical curse of the building.

Although a part of the ground floor is now a business, nobody resides in the above apartments. However, locals often report seeing an old couple entering the building late at night, without keys. Others have seen pale faces in some of the top windows. Due to its red exterior and unique design, some believe that vampires reside in the Longos Mansion. Kids often avoid passing by the building late at night.

Odos Mavris Petras (Black Rock Street)

Ano Poli is an area located in the northern part of Thessaloniki. Built on rocky, hilly land, the historical neighborhood is known for its stone-paved alleys and traditional houses. A visitor or even a local can easily get lost in Ano Poli. And it might be hard finding your way back with your smartphone map. While wandering in the neighborhood, it feels like traveling back in time. No cars or modern buildings on sight.

But there is one specific alley that seems to cause visitors to get lost in time and space. That is the Odos Mavris Petras, the Black Rock Street. This small alley normally leads to a dead-end. However, rumor has it that, if you wander around after midnight, the street might reveal to you some hidden parts of Ano Poli. Others say that it might lead you to parallel dimensions or even back in time. Similarly to what happened to the protagonist in the movie “Midnight in Paris”.

This urban myth might have been inspired by a sci-fi story by Pantelis Giannoulakis. However, others suggest that the sci-fi story was the one inspired by people’s testimonies. Rumor has it that the alley got its name from a large black rock that once fell from the sky and landed on that exact spot. Since then, late at night, a portal to other dimensions opens for the adventure seekers.  

Kipoi tou Pasha (Pasha’s Gardens)

The most mysterious-looking place in Thessaloniki, Greece, is located near the previously mentioned street. The Pasha’s Gardens, also known as Dragon Houses, are basically a large green oasis in Ano Poli.

Constructed in 1904, they combine greenery with peculiar ruins made of stone. According to some, these constructions were inspired by Antoni Gaudi and Catalan Modernism. Nobody knows who designed this interesting landmark. However, locals say that the architect was Italian.

Since the gardens have many mysterious constructions, such as an underground passage that leads nowhere, as long as some esoteric symbols, the urban legends surrounding it are endless. It is said that the stones used for the unique constructions were all hit by lightning. Also, rumor has it that the gardens were the meeting place of Ottoman freemasons. Did any human and animal sacrifices take place there?

Although the landmark is supposed to be a place of relaxation for its visitors, many people report feeling nauseous and uneasy upon arrival. It is considered a location that is full of energy, with some describing it as “mostly negative”. Regardless of whether these rumors are true or not, the Pasha’s Gardens of Thessaloniki are truly mysterious.

The Mermaids of Greece | Greek Folklore

greek legend mermaid

Are mermaids the same creatures as sirens? What is the difference to ancient Greek gorgons? Today, we explore the Greek folktales of mermaids in the Greek seas.

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Mermaids of Greece: A Story by Helinika

It was a crisp spring morning and a group of Greek sailors had already started their daily works on their ship. One of them was a 19-year-old seaman apprentice named Alexis. It was Alexis’s first ever trip as part of the crew. The deck’s chief mate, Yorgos, had ordered him to be on the lookout on the bridge; a key-position to ensure the safe navigation of the ship.

Alexis stood in an exposed part of the forecastle. He used his binoculars to keep a watch for any possible obstacle on the Thermaic Gulf. It wasn’t long since they had exited the port of Thessaloniki, the second most populated city in Greece. The weather conditions were ideal; the sky was clear and the winds were soft. But it didn’t take long till the young seaman noticed something peculiar on the surface of the sea, just few kilometers away from them.

A thick mist covered the area and the waters started bubbling as if they were boiling. It was a spectacular moment that left Alexis standing there, speechless. He removed the binoculars and focused his attention at a dark shadow on the surface near him that got bigger and bigger.

“Could this be a whale?”, he thought.

To his surprise, what appeared in front of him was the pale face of a woman; a gigantic woman whose wet long black hair covered parts of her face. She wore a diadem made of corals and a heavy set of necklaces that covered her chest.

The woman moved her waist and showed a giant fish tail covered in glowing green scales. She was a mermaid. The creature then proceeded to lightly hit the vessel with that tail, causing it to shake.

Alexis fell on the floor and saw the gigantic mermaid reaching towards him and asking him in a language that resembled koine Greek:

“Is King Alexander alive?”

Alexis was petrified and confused. He stared back at the woman, watching her face turn from desperate to furious. Her eyes were now yellowish-green and resembled the ones of a serpent. And that was when Yorgos, the experienced chief mate, offered him his hand and pulled him up. With a steady voice, Yorgos said the following:

“King Alexander is alive and ruling the world”.

The mermaid’s eyes turned back into normal. Big, brown, and warm. She left a sigh of relief and slowly sunk into the water. The mist disappeared and the seamen turned back to work, as if nothing had happened.

Thessaloniki, the Mermaid | Modern Greek Folklore

The above story is fictitious, but it resembles the spoken testimonies of many Greek sailors over the past centuries. According to Greek folklore, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are haunted by a giant mermaid that searches for her brother. That is no other than princess Thessaloniki, sister of Alexander the Great.

Thessaloniki is a historical, rather than a mythological person. She was the daughter of King Philip II of Macedon. Her names translates to “Thessalian victory” and it was given to her to commemorate the battle of the Crocus Field in Thessaly. It goes without saying that the city of Thessaloniki is named after her.

The princess had a tragic fate, since she was killed by her own son, Antipater, who felt that his mother favored his brother. But, according to a Greek folktale, Thessaloniki never died; killing her would be an impossible task.

From Maiden to Mermaid | Modern Greek Folktales

It is rumored that the well-known Alexander the Great, brother of Thessaloniki, had been searching for a spring that could restore someone’s youthful appearance or even make them immortal. That was the so-called “Fountain of Youth” that is first described in the writings of the historian Herodotus in the 5th Century BC.

According to the legend, Alexander bathed in its magic waters in an unspecified location in the East. He felt rejuvenated and filled up his flask, which he later offered to his sister. Thessaloniki washed her hair with the magic water and ended up becoming immortal.

Years later, when she heard that her dear brother had died, Thessaloniki tried to end her life by drowning herself in the Thermaic Gulf. But, since she had become immortal, she turned instead into a sea creature – half human, half fish.

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Mermaids, Sirens, and Gorgons: Are They Different?

If you translate the term “mermaid” into Greek, the result will be “γοργόνα”; the same result will appear if you translate the term “gorgon”. Moreover, it is very likely that the term “mermaid” and “siren” are used synonymously.

In ancient Greek mythology, the term “mermaid” did not exist. On one hand we had the sirens, giant birds with the face of women that lured sailors with their beautiful voices. On the other hand, we had gorgons; serpentine monsters that were able to turn humans into stone.

However, in modern Greek folklore and in the folklore of other cultures, these gorgons and sirens describe the same creature: a mermaid; a woman with long hair and a fish tail who can breathe under and over the surface of the sea.

Although Hans Christian Andersen’s book “The Little Mermaid” made us feel sympathy for these creatures, in most folktales, mermaids are mischievous sea demons that attack rather than save sailors. And the most popular mermaid is of course Thessaloniki, who asks seafarers whether her brother is still alive. If someone makes the mistake to answer negatively, the mermaid becomes angry and attacks the vessel in an attempt to sink it.

Some Greek sailors narrate such stories over the years. Are their stories true or real? I leave it up to you. Before you leave, don’t forget to like, comment, subscribe, and, perhaps, share this story with a friend who loves myths and legends. Till next time!

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7 Facts About Poseidon | #GreekMyths

Known as the ancient Greek god of the sea and waters, Poseidon (Ποσειδώνας in Greek) is one of the most popular Olympians. His Roman equivalent is Neptune and you might have seen statues of him in squares in Greece and Italy. He is usually depicted as muscular, sporting a beard and holding a trident. There are many temples dedicated to him that are still standing; a great example of that would be the temple in Cape Sounio, near Athens. Here is a list of interesting facts about the ancient Greek god, Poseidon.

7 Facts About Poseidon | Ancient Greek Mythology

  1. Poseidon is the god of the seas and the protector of seafarers.
  2. He is also the god of horses.
  3. Poseidon was eaten alive by his father and saved by his brother, Zeus.
  4. Poseidon and Athena fought over the city of Athens.
  5. Triton and Poseidon are not the same person.
  6. God Poseidon is responsible for Odysseus’ dangerous homecoming journey.
  7. Poseidon’s domain was rumored to be Atlantis.

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Poseidon is the god of the seas and the protector of seafarers

As the god of the seas, Poseidon was also considered the protector of sailors. He was worshipped by sailors as their patron who would pray to him to feel protected during their trips. Today, the protector of Greek sailors is Saint Nicholas.

He is also the god of horses

It may be hard to see a connection there, but Poseidon was also the god of horses. It is believed that he was the one responsible for introducing the species in Greece.

Poseidon was eaten alive by his father and saved by his brother, Zeus

Poseidon was one of the unlucky children of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. He was eaten alive by his cannibalistic and power-hungry father, only to be saved later by his younger brother, Zeus. Zeus then assigned an element to each of his siblings. Poseidon’s specialty was no other than water!

Poseidon and Athena fought over the city of Athens

Greek city-states usually had a patron who protected the land and the citizens. According to an ancient Greek legend, goddess Athena and god Poseidon competed against each other for the city of Athens, with the citizens voting for their preferred patron. The Athenians chose Athena for introducing the olive tree on their land. Now you may be wondering what Poseidon offered them. You can learn more about this myth in our dedicated video and article.

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Triton and Poseidon are not the same person

You may know Triton from various movies and books, including the Disney adaption of the “Little Mermaid”. Many people confuse Poseidon with Triton, thinking they are the same person. In fact, Triton was one of Poseidon’s sons and was a mermaid.

God Poseidon is responsible for Odysseus’ dangerous homecoming journey

If you have watched Helinika’s playlist narrating the Odyssey, then you already know this fact. The king of Ithaca, Odysseus, was on his way back to his island from the city of Troy. But he ended up spending years in the sea, since he lost the favor of Poseidon. The god of the seas was furious at Odysseus for injuring and mocking one of his sons, Cyclops Polyphemus. Injuring Polyphemus wasn’t the worst part; Odysseus was trying to save his life in this case. But it was the fact that the king felt invincible after this that made him commit a hybris.

Poseidon’s domain was rumored to be Atlantis

In the past, we saw Plato’s allegory of the lost city of Atlantis. Atlantis, according to Plato, was a rich and powerful city-state that flooded and disappeared from the face of the Earth. The reason? The gods and goddesses were furious at how greedy and unethical its citizens had become. According to the legend and allegory, the city was Poseidon’s domain. The first ruler of the city was no other than king Atlas, one of Poseidon’s sons.

If you enjoyed watching this video, don’t forget to like, share, comment, and subscribe. In the description, you will find some helpful links, including your Udemy discount for learning Greek. Till next time!

How YOUR Country Sounds in Greek | Names of Countries in Greek

As you probably already know, the names of countries may be pronounced differently from language to language. In some cases, a country or nation may have multiple different names when translated into different languages. A great example of that is Greece. In Greek, Greece or Hellas is named “Ελλάδα” (η). The name “Greece” actually derives from the Latin “Graeci” – a term the Romans used to describe Greeks. Now, let’s see how the names of some countries sound in Greek.

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The Names of 80+ Countries in Greek | Greek Geography Vocabulary

  1. Αίγυπτος – Egypt
  2. Αιθιοπία – Ethiopia
  3. Αλβανία – Albania
  4. Αλγερία – Algeria
  5. Αργεντινή – Argentina
  6. Αρμενία – Armenia
  7. Αυστραλία – Australia
  8. Αυστρία – Austria
  9. Αφγανιστάν – Afghanistan
  10. Βενεζουέλα – Venezuela
  11. Βιετνάμ – Vietnam
  12. Βόρεια Κορέα – North Korea
  13. Βουλγαρία – Bulgaria
  14. Βραζιλία – Brazil
  15. Γαλλία – France
  16. Γερμανία – Germany
  17. Γουατεμάλα – Guatemala
  18. Γροιλανδία – Greenland
  19. Δανία – Denmark
  20. Δομινικανή Δημοκρατία – Dominical Republic
  21. Ελβετία – Switzerland
  22. Εσθονία – Estonia
  23. Ζάμπια – Zambia
  24. Ζιμπάμπουε – Zimbabwe
  25. Ηνωμένα Αραβικά Εμιράτα – United Arab Emirates
  26. Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες (της Αμερικής)/ ΗΠΑ – United States (of America)/ USA
  27. Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο/ Αγγλία – United Kingdom/ England
  28. Ιαπωνία – Japan
  29. Ινδία – India
  30. Ινδονησία – Indonesia
  31. Ιορδανία – Jordan
  32. Ιράκ – Iraq
  33. Ιράν – Iran
  34. Ιρλανδία – Ireland
  35. Ισημερινός – Ecuador
  36. Ισλανδία – Iceland
  37. Ισπανία – Spain
  38. Ισραήλ – Israel
  39. Ιταλία – Italy
  40. Καναδάς – Canada
  41. Κένυα – Kenya
  42. Κίνα – China
  43. Κολομβία – Colombia
  44. Κούβα – Cuba
  45. Κροατία – Croatia
  46. Κύπρος – Cyprus
  47. Λάος – Laos
  48. Λετονία – Latvia
  49. Λευκορωσία – Belarus
  50. Λίβανος – Lebanon
  51. Λιθουανία – Lithuania
  52. Λουξεμβούργο – Luxemburg
  53. Μαδαγασκάρη – Madagascar
  54. Μάλτα – Malta
  55. Μαρόκο – Morocco
  56. Μεξικό – Mexico
  57. Μολδαβία – Moldova
  58. Μονακό – Monaco
  59. Νέα Ζηλανδία – New Zealand
  60. Νιγηρία – Nigeria
  61. Νορβηγία – Norway
  62. Νότια Αφρική – South Africa
  63. Νότια Κορέα – South Korea
  64. Ολλανδία/ Κάτω Χώρες – Holland/ Netherlands
  65. Ουγγαρία – Hungary
  66. Ουκρανία – Ukraine
  67. Ουρουγουάη – Uruguay
  68. Περού – Peru
  69. Πολωνία – Poland
  70. Πορτογαλία – Portugal
  71. Ρουμανία – Romania
  72. Ρωσία – Russia
  73. Σερβία – Serbia
  74. Σκωτία – Scotland
  75. Σλοβακία – Slovakia
  76. Σλοβενία – Slovenia
  77. Σουηδία – Sweden
  78. Συρία – Syria
  79. Τζαμάικα – Jamaica
  80. Τσεχία – Czech Republic
  81. Φινλανδία – Finland

Now, where are you from? You can leave a comment down below. For more free content like this, like and subscribe. Don’t forget to binge-watch all of Helinika’s videos and visit helinika.com for free Greek resources. In the description, you’ll find some helpful links, including your Udemy discount and Helinika’s other social media accounts. Till next time.

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Pronouncing Greek Gods and Goddesses Names in (Modern) Greek | a.k.a How Greeks Call the Ancient Gods

Zeus, Aphrodite, Poseidon. The names of the members of the ancient Greek pantheon are known to the English-speaking world. But, it goes without saying, that these names are pronounced differently in (modern) Greek. Here is how Greeks call the Greek gods and goddesses we know from our favorite myths.

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Pronouncing Greek Gods/Goddesses Names in Greek:

  1. Δίας (Zeus)
  2. Ήρα (Hera)
  3. Ποσειδώνας (Poseidon)
  4. Αθηνά (Athena)
  5. Αφροδίτη (Aphrodite)
  6. Άρης (Ares)
  7. Ήφαιστος (Hephaestus)
  8. Διόνυσος (Dionysus)
  9. Εστία (Hestia)
  10. Απόλλων(ας) (Apollo)
  11. Άρτεμις (Artemis)
  12. Ερμής (Hermes)
  13. Δήμητρα (Demeter)
  14. Περσεφόνη (Persephone)

Who’s your favorite character from ancient Greek mythology?

Drosoulites: The Greek Phantom Warriors in Crete | Greek Folklore

It was a hot and humid summer morning in Crete. A group of hikers had already started walking by the sea towards the castle of Frangokastello, near the town of Sfakia. Everything was quiet and all they could hear was the song of the cicadas and the relaxing sound of waves.

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As soon as they reached the Venetian fort, they spent some time staring at the ripples forming on the sea surface. But it didn’t take long till they all instinctively turned their heads towards the nearby monastery of Agios Charalambos. What they saw left them frozen in fear. Tall shadowy figures holding medieval weapons started sprinting towards them. Some of these warriors looked as if they rode phantom horses.

The hikers couldn’t speak nor move; they stood there mesmerized by the group of phantom warriors that ran towards them. The closer the shadows appeared to be, the smaller they become. And just like that, few meters away from them, they disappeared. Later that day, they learned from the locals that they were lucky enough to experience seeing the Drosoulites, the phantom warriors of Crete.

The Greek Folktale of Drosoulites | Greek Folklore

According to a local legend, a group of Greek fighters who lost their lives during the battle of Frangkokastello, still haunt the area. They appear as ghost fighters on some spring or summer mornings, surprising those who visit the castle and the nearby area. There are countless reports of locals and visitors who have witnessed this phenomenon. Some of them, had never heard of the legend but still saw the shadowy figures approaching the castle. Their appearance usually lasts for ten minutes, according to reports.

The battle of Frangkocastello occurred during the years of the Greek war for freedom and specifically on May 17, 1828. The army consisted of 350 men and was led by Hatzimichalis Dalianis from Epirus. The army protected the fort for more than seven days and continued fighting even when victory seemed unrealistic. They all died in the battlefield.  

Although this phenomenon is linked to the battle of 1828, the castle’s history is much longer than that. Just few kilometers away from Sfakia, Frangkokastello was built in 1374 to protect Venetian nobles from pirates during the Frankokratia, the era during which French and Italian states were established on the territory of the Byzantine Empire.

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Drosoulites: Ghosts or a Natural Phenomenon?

Since the appearance of Drosoulites has been reported multiple times over the past two centuries, it is more than a local folktale. Scientists have tried to debunk the myth, with the most common explanation being that it is simply a meteorological phenomenon.

To be more precise, it is believed that it is a mirage from the coast of North Africa. However, there is no definite or clear answer. What we do know is that it occurs on late May or early June, usually in the morning, when the weather is humid and warm.

What do you think of this folk legend? Is there a similar folktale where you come from? Leave a comment in the comment section.

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How to Win a Greek’s Heart for Business and Interpersonal Relationships | How to Be Friends with a Greek in 8 Steps

Greeks are generally considered open, friendly, and approachable. They may reveal intimate things about themselves and invite you over for dinner right after your initial meeting. But, don’t be fooled, building a strong friendship or business partnership with a Greek man or woman requires work, patience, and a clear understanding of the Greek cultural dimensions.

How Easy Is It to Make Friends in Greece?

As a foreigner, making friends in Greece is neither too hard, nor too easy. According to an InterNations survey from 2021, the country is the 32nd friendliest country for expats in a list of 65 countries. That places Greece somewhere in the middle. Helinika will help you navigate through the cultural dos and don’ts and win the heart of the Greek(s) you seek friendship or business partnership with.

Actions That Will Make a Greek Like You

  1. Ask about them and their family. The Greek culture is more on the collectivistic, rather than on the individualistic side. If you know a Greek person’s family, partner, or very close friends, you may ask them how these people are doing. Greek people usually see themselves as part of a group and showing disinterest about the other members of their close group, may be interpreted as disinterest about them as well. A small talk between Greeks usually goes as follows: “Τι κάνεις; Τα παιδιά; Ο/Η σύζυγος, όλοι καλά;” (translation: “How are you? The children? (What about) the spouse, is everyone alright?”. It goes without saying that if the Greek person of interest hasn’t revealed details about their family life, you don’t have to ask how his or her family is doing. Lastly, not asking about the person’s family members is not considered rude. However, considering his/her family in your conversations, will help you win the Greek’s heart!
  2. Cook for them or ask them out for dinner. The best business deals, romantic relationships, and friendships are usually paired with food. Greeks, like most Mediterranean cultures, revolve around food and cooking. If you are a good cook, invite the Greek of interest over for dinner. If not, invite him/her out at a good restaurant. It doesn’t have to be fancy nor expensive; but the food quality must be top-notch. Food is taken seriously in Greece and people can discuss for hours at the dinner table, even after having finished their meals. Normally, Greeks order or cook different dishes, place them at the center of the table, and share them all together, instead of ordering individual dishes for each person. This is another detail to keep in mind.
  3. Offer to pay/return the favor, even when reassured you don’t have to. Philotimo is an admired characteristic in Greece. Everyone wants friends who have this attribute. A person with philotimo is an honorable person who doesn’t accept gifts, help, and other offerings easily. Having a small argument with the person who wants to pay for your dinner or offer you something for free is usually expected. If the other person insists, you can then accept their offer. And no matter what the other person says, you should always try to return the favor at some point. Even if they have reassured you that you don’t have to. Not doing so is not the end of the world – but you won’t be seen as a person with philotimo in their eyes. This may seem complex and unnecessary to someone who comes from a low context culture, where communication is usually direct. However, when meeting with Greeks, you should be able to “read the room” and understand people’s expectations, without being told what these expectations are.
  4. Allow them to pamper you. Have you ever heard of the Benjamin Franklin effect? You know, the one that suggests that a person who does a favor for you will like you more than the person you do a favor for? Well, it definitely works with the Greeks. When visiting a Greek person’s home, let them pamper you as they like. Greek philoxenia requires them to offer you something to drink and something to eat. If you stay the night, they will probably offer you fresh towels and bedding and they will prepare breakfast for you. Of course, you don’t have to eat at their place, but try not to reject every single thing they offer to you. Otherwise, you will be considered an “ακατάδεκτος” – an adjective that could be translated as “someone who doesn’t accept offerings”. Trust me, it will be hard to make friends with Greeks if they think they can’t pamper you at all.

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Things to Avoid – a.k.a “How to Make a Greek Dislike You”

  1. Avoid criticizing someone close to them. In individualistic cultures, a person’s actions reflect their own personality, mood, and thinking, unless they are minors. In collectivistic cultures, a person’s actions reflect their entire environment – friends, family, community. Greece is somewhere in the middle but does lean towards collectivism. Although an adult’s actions are judged individually at the courthouse, when it comes to ethical criticism, someone’s wrongdoings will bring shame to everyone close to them. If someone commits a crime, their family members might self-isolate for a while, regardless of whether they were involved in the crime or not. The actions of the individual have consequences for the entire group. For this exact reason, when meeting a Greek person, avoid being overly critical towards people who are somehow related to them. They will take it personally. Yes, they may recognize, for example, that their cousin is a dishonest business owner who lies about his or her products’ real value. However, calling them out in front of your potential friend, client, or business partner, will seem like an attack to the entire family. The same goes with friend groups. Unless you are already integrated into the group, avoid criticizing a member at the presence of another member.
  2. Don’t visit them empty handed. Unless you are already good friends and visit each other regularly, avoid visiting a Greek person’s house empty handed. Especially when you visit their house for the very first time. You can bring a dessert, a meal you prepared at home, a bottle of wine, some flowers, or a home accessory. That is especially expected when visiting someone who is of older age, since young people tend to overlook these details.
  3. Don’t disrespect them at their home/office. Greeks will often tell you to feel at home at their place. Philoxenia, hospitality, is taken very seriously in Greece but not only from the hosts’ side. A visitor is also expected to respect the space of the host by trying not to make a mess, accepting some pampering, and asking for permission before visiting other rooms in the house – even if it’s the bathroom. Of course, this doesn’t apply when visiting someone who is already a very close friend. If the Greek host lives with others, acknowledging them and/or making small talk with them, is expected.
  4. Avoid being inflexible. Flexibility is key when meeting the Greeks. An appointment may change last minute, someone might arrive later or earlier and sticking to the schedule is not always a priority. Losing your temper and accusing them for this, will not help at all. If the other person is constantly changing their mind, try persuading them to stick to the plan without making any accusations. Patience is key.

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The Story of The Haunted Bridge of Arta | Greek Folklore

Arta is a picturesque town in Epirus region in northwestern Greece. The area is rich in folktales from Greece’s recent past. Its vast green forests and gigantic mountains have inspired locals to tell stories of fairies and other mythical creatures. But there is one story that stands out the most: the story of the so-called haunted bridge of Arta.

The Bridge of Arta

A long time ago, the Romans built a bridge over the Arachthos river near Arta. This bridge was reconstructed many times over the years and is still standing in the 21st Century. Its most recent reconstruction was during the 17th Century, when a peculiar folk song that narrated the story of the bridge appeared for the first time.

The story talked about hauntings and human sacrifice, although the latter was not a local custom. Some people say that this folktale was meant to scare the Ottoman Turks away from the area, although others see a resemblance to other similar stories from around the world. But what is this story even talking about?

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The Folktale of the Bridge of Arta

According to a 17th Century legend, when the Ottomans reached Epirus, they wanted to reconstruct some of the works of the Romans that had been destroyed over the years. Their project included a beautiful stone bridge that crossed Aracthos river near the town of Arta.

A group of local men was assigned with this difficult task, since the stone bridge was in ruins and only its foundations were still standing. The master mason was a young, skilled worker who was newly married. He was ambitious and determined to reconstruct the bridge as fast as possible. However, rebuilding the bridge was proven to be an impossible task.

As the folksong says: “They were building all day long. At night, (the bridge) would collapse”.

One day, a nightingale flew over the builders and stood on a nearby branch. But the bird did not start chattering as expected. It started speaking with a clear human voice and revealed what should be done to complete the bridge. According to the bird, a human must be sacrificed on the spot to haunt the place. The haunting would keep the bridge stable and safe.

“(It shouldn’t be) an orphan, a stranger, or a traveler.”, the bird explained, but rather the beautiful and beloved wife of the master mason.

As soon as the man heard that, he started worrying and told the nightingale to tell his wife to take her time with preparing his lunch and come much later than usual to visit him on the construction site. But the bird misheard him and told his wife to get ready quickly and run straight to the bridge.

The young woman arrived at the scene and immediately noticed that her husband seemed sad and anxious. One of the builders told her that he accidentally dropped his ring in the foundations of the bridge and that is why he feels blue.

The young wife didn’t think twice before jumping into the construction to search for the ring. And that is when the masons started throwing mortar and lime and rocks at the opening to build over the old foundations. The woman realized that she was trapped into the building and the men continued with the constructions without hearing her cries for help.

And that is when she revealed that her sisters had a similar fate to hers, all being sacrificed in a similar manner across Europe. The woman started cursing the bridge and the masons, saying that it will shake and cause people to fall into the river as soon as they step foot on it.

“Maiden, change your word and give another curse

for you have a one dear brother who may cross this bridge.”, someone told her over the rubble.

The woman then remembered her youngest brother and immediately took the curse back. She couldn’t risk her brother dying too.

“May the bridge shake, like the wild mountains do

May crossing pedestrians fall, like the wild birds do

for I have a brother abroad who may cross this bridge.”, she exclaimed. And the bridge has indeed survived to this day.

Sacrifices, Masonry, and Foundations

This particular story and the folksong that goes with it, are of particular interest. Why would a Christian Orthodox population in the 17th Century come up with a story about human sacrifice? And why would a haunting keep a bridge stable?

People from Arta often say that the story was made up to convince the Ottomans that the bridge was haunted and therefore they should avoid crossing it. In fact, there is no proof or even speculation that people engaged in rituals that involved human sacrifice in Byzantine and Ottoman Greece. However, this folktale somehow involves the archetype of the beautiful maiden who is sacrificed for the greater good. A pattern that we find in many ancient legends that have survived over the years.

The folktale of Arta remind us of two ancient Greek legends in particular: the one of princess Iphigeneia and the one of princess Antigone. Iphigeneia was a legendary maiden that was going to be sacrificed by her father who wanted to sail safely to Troy, but managed to escape with the help of goddess Artemis. Antigone, on the other hand, was a young woman that was sentenced to death for disobeying the laws of her uncle – she was thrown alive into an underground cave to die slowly, just like the maiden of Arta who was captured alive in the bridge’s foundations.

Although human sacrifice was not a local custom at that time, small animal sacrifices did occur in many villages in the Balkan peninsula before and during the Ottoman occupation. Birds, chickens, or roosters were killed at the foundations or doorsteps of newly built houses to protect the owners from earthquakes, floods, but also ghosts and evil spirits. They believed that the animal would haunt the construction and the building would not collapse. These customs were not allowed by the Christian Orthodox Church, however, some people continued doing them over the years.

The foundations of buildings seem to be of particular interest in Greek and European folklore. In some Greek villages, locals would allow snakes to find refuge in the foundations of their homes. The snakes were considered protectors of the homes and were very much welcomed to co-exist with humans. They would eat all the rats and mice that would try to enter the house.

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Similar Stories Around the World

Believe it or not, stories similar to the bridge of Arta exist all around the world. Have you ever heard of the Irish-American song named “London Bridge Is Falling Down”? The song implies that no matter how good the materials the masons use are, the bridge of London will always collapse. What’s essential is a human to guard it all day and night – a human that will be sacrificed in its foundations. In Sweden, there is a folktale that says that children were buried alive to stop the spread of a disease in a small town.

Are these stories true or imaginative? Also, are there any similar folktales in the part of the world where you come from? Leave a comment in the comment section.