The Greek Family

By Christopher Xenopoulos Janus

The family is the basic social unit of all the strata of Greek society whether rural or urban.

Greece has a higher marriage rate and lower divorce rate than anywhere else in northern Europe. Actually the divorce rate is among the lowest of any country world­wide. Greece has a reputation for the stability of the family.

Several factors in the Greek family account for this reputation.

Greece has the highest tradition - nearly. 3,000 years of recorded family life and values. Children respect their parents and elders and parents look after their children and care for them all their lives.

Of foremost importance in the Greek family is the requirement of loyalty. Love, of course is a given but loyalty is a matter of choice.

Greeks do not often discuss the values of the family. They just live them. The word unconditional is not mentioned with loyalty but it is expected and with unconditional loyalty there are no exceptions no "what if's".

Punishment for disloyalty varies with the community. As we saw in Zorba the Greek, a woman for being unfaithful, can be stoned. A man or a woman who criticized their parents can be asked to leave the village or even the country.

Greeks are first to realize the awesomeness of and dangers of unconditional loyalty citing Hitler and his evilness and being loyal to an evil sense or cause. But they accept loyalty as a foremost requirement in Greek family life.

So much for the morality and code of the Greek family. Following taken from authors all over the world and most writings from non-Greeks is a general discussion of the makeup, customs and workings of the Greek family:

For an individual not to marry and to remain separate from her family is viewed as unusual behavior. Sons and daughters still live with their family until they marry, by passing the western tradition of living independently between those two stages of life. Families play a large selection of a mate, although the traditional arranged marriage is now less frequent than in previous generations.

In rural areas, traditional calls for courtship to be a time when society examines a young woman's conduct to evaluate her character.

A potential groom and his family still consider a woman's reputation, health, age and appearance although the elements of reputation have changed since the 1960s.

Until the late 1960s innocence and modesty. The chief ingredients of a young woman's honor were demonstrated by her dress and character.

The basic household, or nuclear family, includes a husband, wife and their unmarried children. This unit may also include a parent or another family relative, and in some regions a young married couple may live with their parents of one spouse until they gain financial independence.

This unit may also include a parent or another family relative. In village tradition the groom takes his bride to live at least a short period with his parents.

In the Cyclades Islands, the wife's parents and village are the traditional destination of the newlyweds. The same tradition has been adapted to city life where the wife's parents may provide housing for in-laws from several areas of Greece.

The primary purpose of marriage is thought to be to provide children, without whom the couple would not be happy. The second goal is preservation and augmentation of the family property from the previous generation.

In rural areas the nuclear family is a source of agricultural labor. Other forms of family enterprise such as fishing and small businesses receive similar benefits from offspring.

Writers always write a special sections on the role of women:

In some ways the traditional roles of women in Greek society have been differentiated by class. Until the end of World War II, the economic basis of most society was either agriculture or fishing, activities that were simply passed down through generations, together with the social structures that made them work best.

The common view historically was that women were basically inferior, sexually dangerous and vulnerable. Accordingly women were expected to exercise authority over others only informally and in specific parts of the extended family and society.

In traditional standards for peasant women, honorable behavior of philotimo required caring for the family and remaining in a domestic context where they were submissive to the opinions and demands of men. The actual ingredients of that cultural code of honor sometimes varied among villages and regions.

In general, however, women were taught to restrain sexual impulses because failure to do so would tempt men into improper conduct.

Finally, Greece is the most ingenious country in Europe and one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, with an almost 07% majority of citizens sharing the same religious identity, religion, language and race.

This especially since the restoration of democracy in 1974 or other similar problems. Greek society is very coherent and the Greek family, a basic social institution, seems strong enough to support its member's even at the most difficult times. As a result the high rate of unemployment does not spawn problems like homelessness or a high criminal rate.

(Posting date 13 August 2008)

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