Monday, January 08, 2007

Greek Tradition

My friend, Tree, is getting married this May and she has asked me to be bridesmaid. Saturday was the engagement party, which was my very first of that sort. You see, Tree comes from the Greek Orthodox Church and her parents are elated that she is finally tying the knot, so they've pulled out all the stops. I have very little experience with Greek culture and I know very few people in Tree's life. We became friends in college while we were preparing to become art teachers. So I didn't see much of that side of her life. But Saturday night, I got to see quite a bit. There was a brief ceremonial betrothing and exchanging of gold necklaces and blessings, annointing of oils, and then came the dancing. First the bride-to-be and future groom danced, not a slow, close romantic dance, but a handholding, side to side circle dance. The family of the bride and groom then joined them linking hands and then the extended families and eventually everyone was invited to join as the circle of linked people spiraled inward with the betrothed in the center. Every so often, Tree's father would throw handfuls of dollar bills in the air. Real dollars! I assume that this is symbolic of him giving a blessing of prosperity, but I'm not sure of the origin of this tradition. After several dances to traditional Greek music of people holding hands and linking arms and dancing round and round, the D.J. played some jazz, oldies and typical dance floor tunes. At one point, I glanced over and saw that Tree's father was wearing a bright red fedora and cape and was hoisted on the shoulders of some other men. Then even later, I noticed that many of the men had their shirts torn to shreds. I asked Tree about this and she simply replied, "It's Greek Tradition." (Oh, well, that explains a lot.) She added, "It's like the smashing of dishes". I can't wait for the wedding! Maybe I'll need to brush up with "Greek Weddings for Dummies" book.