Crete has a rich cultural history. From the Minoans through the Roman, Turkish and German occupation to the present day democracy, traces of Crete's history remain throughout the island: the Archaeological sites at Knossos and Phaistos, Byzantine churches and monasteries, Venetian and Neoclassical architecture, even minarets and mosques.
Cretan music and traditional dances play an important part in life in Crete and will be seen and heard at most festivals and parties.
The Crete of today is very different from the Crete I first encountered 20 years ago. EU integration and modernisation has had a huge impact on local culture and attitudes.
The youth of today are mostly independent and well educated. Girls as well as boys are encouraged to study hard and go on to university. Boys are required to do National Service from the age of 18, or after they finish their college or university studies. Family is still important and ties remain strong, although divorce rates have started rising
There is, though, a contrast between town and village life. Many villages still retain the ' old ' way of life - men in the cafeneons sipping Greek coffee and raki while women gather outside their homes, crocheting and gossiping together. These are mostly older people, the younger generations having moved out of villages to the more 'sophisticated' town life.
Tourism has also made its mark on the island. Parts of the North coast in particular have seen villages expand to become large resorts.
But the famous Cretan hospitality is still very much in evidence. Don't be surprised if friendly neighbours occasionally bring you fresh eggs, home grown vegetables and fruit.
Much of the Greek culture revolves around the Greek Orthodox church which is instrumental in the daily life and cultural traditions of the Cretans and 97% of the population are Greek Orthodox. Religious holidays are rigidly observed; some are designated as National Holidays and others are celebrated with colourful festivals.
Name Days are celebrated in Crete and Greece, as opposed to birthdays. Orthodox Greek name days are the feast days of saints. Children are usually named after one of the Christian saints and so celebrate their nameday on their name-sakes saints day more
Copyright 2004-2012 Carol Palioudaki. Crete culture and people. Living in Crete www.livingincrete.net