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January Newsletter
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Greek Customs and Traditions in America: Marriage Service (Part D)
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Lamb ParcelsJanuary Recipe:
Skewer Ground Lamb Kebabs

(Diane Kochilas)
1 lb. ground lamb
2 tlbs. good-quality tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tlbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping teaspoons dried Greek mint
1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper to taste salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 egg white
  Six 8-inch flat metal skewers
Toasted or grilled bread

1. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead very well until the mixture is compact and solid. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Heat the broiler or grill and lightly oil the rack on which the lamb skewers will be cooked.

3. Divide the meat into 6 equal portions and roll each into a 4-inch-long sausage. Dampen a paper towel with a little olive oil and wipe the skewers with the oil. Slip the skewers through the ground meat sausages and squeeze the mixture up and down the skewer, flattening it and pressing it to adhere to the skewer. Grill about 6 inches from the heat source for 7 to 8 minutes, turning to brown, until the meat is just cooked through. Remove and serve with pita bread and with either of the yogurt dips.
Excerpts from:

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 Learn About Greek Customs and Traditions in America:
 Planning a Greek Wedding (Part D)

continued from November Newsletter...

Marriage Service
The ceremony, lasting about forty-five minutes to one hour, may be performed in both Greek and English, in whatever combination is comfortable for the couple and the priest. However, the content and wording cannot be changed in any way. Modern "I do" vows are not part of the service and cannot be added. Neither can phrases be eliminated. Couples concerned about the wording, "Wives, be subject to your husbands," should understand that this is the Orthodox approach to marriage. According to church doctrine, the husband is the head of the household, but the mother has a revered position as the cornerstone of the family and is responsible for maintaining the family unit. According to a popular folk custom, if the bride can step on the groom's foot first while this passage is being read, she will be the head of the house!

Wedding Program
A printed program that explains the Orthodox service is very helpful to your guests. You may reprint the "Sacrament of Marriage" in this chapter or ask your priest to supply text. Also include in the program the names of the bride and groom, the date, time and place, the name of the priest, names and titles of the wedding party, and special performers such as musicians.

The church likes to maintain a Greek Orthodox atmosphere throughout the ceremony. It requires, for example, that only the chanter provide responses to the priest. Any singers other than the chanter and any instruments other than the organ can be used only with permission of the diocesan bishop. It has become acceptable to play appropriate, non-Orthodox music while the guests arrive, during the wedding party entrance, and as the guests leave.

Church Decorations
Consult your priest about placement of flower arrangements and other decorations. The table with the stéphana, arranged by the priest, is the focal point. You may also want to consider using a decoration common in Greece: two candles joined with fabric to symbolize the uniting of the man and the woman. Place a large candle stand with lighted candles behind and on either side of the small stéphana table. Connect the two candles with a large white drapery and have a young child stand by each one throughout the ceremony. The bride keeps the material and may have it made into a dress, tablecloth, or any item she chooses.

It is suggested the couple take communion the Sunday before the wedding, each in his or her respective church if one of the partners is not Orthodox. Communion is not given during the ceremony. The bride and groom drink wine from a common cup to commemorate the Biblical wedding in Cana.

Wedding Bed and Shaving the Groom
If convenient, single women friends of the bride (often the bridesmaids) prepare the wedding bed. An old custom is to roll a young child on the bed and then scatter kouféta, rice, and money on the top for wishes of fertility and good fortune. In some small Greek villages, the marriage bed is decorated and paraded around the village before the ceremony. In Cyprus, the groom's face is ritually shaved in his house by the other groomsmen on the day of the wedding.

Wedding Reception
Delicious food, a table laden with sweets, bouzouki music, and lines of laughing dancers complete the day. Most wedding receptions are a combination of American and Greek food, music, and dancing. The music alternates between modern American songs current Greek pop favorites, and folk music for dances like the hasápiko and kalamatianós. Traditionally the Greek dancing begins with the bride leading a kalamatianós (if she wishes) with her husband next in line. Then the family members and close friends take turns "dancing the bride" by assuming the lead at the head of the line, starting with the father. The most popular wedding song is "Oréa ine i Nyfi Mas" ("Beautiful is our Bride"). In addition to the wedding cake, it is customary to have an assortment of Greek sweets including baklavá and kourabiéthes. Be sure to have the priest bless the food before eating. Add whatever American customs you wish --such as a receiving line, toasts by the best man and and maid of honor, tossing the bride's bouquet --and enjoy!

to be continued...

Excerpt from the book Greek Traditions and Customs

Planning a Greek Wedding?

Wedding Days
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 Featured Destination: Rethymno Island

Photo of RethymnoIn spite of the recent enormous tourist growth of the Prefecture of Rethymnon, the local character of the city has not change much. Important archaeological sites, legendary traditions, natural beauties and endless beaches attract thousands of visitors every year. The capital of this district, built upon the site of ancient Rethymna, still maintains the marks of the Venetian and Turkish conquerors. Rethymnon is divided into the old and the new town. The new one is built in a comfortable spacious and planned manner and with plenty of green spots, but as usual, the best strolls are made in the old town's little alleys. Venetian mansions, Turkish houses with enclosed gardens and sheltered, wooden balconies, Medieval fountains, high minarets and beautiful sweet and sour "kaltsounia" (cream cheese and mint pasty), boiled goat and "kouneli ofto" (roast rabbit baked in a pot often filled with rice). These are just a few examples of the many local specialities.

The city-limits are defined by Fortetza the well-preserved, huge Venetian fortress which imposingly overlooks the city. At the entrance to the fort in the old lotzia of the nobles is the city's archaeological museum. In front of the Fortetza lies the Venetian harbour, an idea( place for your morning coffee. Worth visiting is also the Church of Agios Frangiskos, the Turkish school and Porta Guora, the central gate of the Venetian fortifications.

Right opposite is the endless sandy beach of Rethymnon which starts from the town and stretches all the way to the holiday centres. Among the district's most known beaches are Preveli and Plakias with other smaller ones nearby. To reach Preveli we pass the impressive Kourtaliotiko Faragi, a gorge that starts from the village of Koxare and continues for about 2 km. Little churches have found shelter by its sides. The shaded narrow paths have been fertile ground for many legends, told by the elders in the area. The gorge is crossed by the River Kourtaliotis, which ends at Preveli beach with its very exotic scenery. A minor deviation before we come to the beach will take us to the Monastery of Preveli perched on a bare hill. The monastery which only allows men to enter is dedicated to Agios loarmis the Theologian. A small ecclesiastic museum operates inside. About 2 km after the monastery the road ends at a sea-stones and clean waters. Caiques depart from Plakia, making excursions to Frangokastello, Preveli, Agia Gallini and Hora of Sfalkia. A road which leads to the Libyan coast crosses the green village of Spyli on the mountainside of Psiloritis. It continues its way down to Agia Gallini, a former fishing village which has been transformed into a tourist resort, thanks to its fantastic beaches. The waters of the Libyan Sea maintain a stable temperature for many months, thus making swimming even more enjoyable. Caiques connect the dreaming about its marvelous beaches, picturesque little harbours and intensive nightlife.

Still it is worth making a stop at the highland villages to taste their specialities, meet the hospitable Cretans and to get in touch with its rich history. Among those villages are Axos, ancient Eleftherna, Amari, Agia Fotini, Prases and many more. Old Byzantine churches, monasteries built by patient Christians on isolated mountainsides and remains of ancient cities are waiting for us to discover them. It seems that Crete is one of the favourite islands of the god.

Get the travel guide to Rethymno here...

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Greek Island Hopping 2003

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 Saints' Namedays in January








Agiou Basileiou
Synaksi Ioannou
Grigoriou Nussis
13 14
Athanasiou & Kurillou
Maximou / Neofytou / Agnis
Anastasiou / Timothetou
Grigoriou Theologou / Margaritas
Trion Ierarxon
Kyrou & Ioannou An/ron

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