Dave and Gerry's Alonissos Island Information Site
Family Bereavement on Alonissos
This section has been written by Beau and Bert Dendy and is in memory of Dick Dendy who died on Alonissos on Monday 12th May 2008 and is sadly missed by all his family and friends.|
In the Event of a Bereavement
The following information is based on our experience and hopefully will help you through the procedures of what happens during this very difficult and emotional time.
The following information is to inform you of what the legal procedures are in Greece following the death.
Maria Rizopulu (Solicitor on Skopelos)
Greek Embassy, London
Lexicon (Tranlation Company in Thessaloniki)
Our Contact Details - Bert & Beau Dendy
Most people are aware of how funerals are organised in their own countries but we thought you might like to know what happens in Greece following the death of a family member.
Greeks mourn and show respect for their dead a long time after they have departed from this world. When somebody dies, it depends somewhat on the time of day that they die as to the ritual that ensues. Close relatives living in the same house as the dead person must stay up with the body all night or up to 24 hours. Friends and relatives come round to the house, nobody sleeps and they will make company together, on this, the last night on this earth of the departed.
Nothing in the way of food or drink must be served in the room in the house where the body is kept. No meat is eaten at all for 9 days by anybody in the household as they believe that the body is not yet dead. Flesh represents the flesh of Christ and all living things and the abstinence from eating meat is a mark of respect, until the person properly leaves this world. The body and particularly the face, is covered with a sheet as soon as the sun goes down and is not uncovered until the sun rises. This has to do with evil spirits that may corrupt the soul during the night. The body must be placed in the middle of the room where it is kept, facing the direction of the sunrise.
After the 24 hour or night vigil, everybody goes to the church ith the dead body leading the procession and everyone following. The coffin is open during the procession for all to see and then for 1 hour in the church to give people a chance to pay their last respects, while the priests read from the bible. The body is always buried with the other family members, on top of the previous member's grave. A daughter who has been married will be buried with her husband's family, as she becomes part of that family when she marries him. The family looks after the grave as if it is the new home of the departed, keeping it clean at all times and laying fresh flowers regularly. Sometimes candles are lit.
After 9 days the family makes a special dish called "Koliva". Koliva consists of raisins, wheat and walnuts and is displayed inside the house and then taken to the grave, as food for the dead. The priests attend and give readings. Part of the food is scattered over the grave and the relatives eat the remainder. This is a mark of respect and acknowledgement that the dead person is still part of the family and can still eat with them. After 40 days, normally the nearest Sunday mass, another plate of Koliva is made and taken to the church. It is passed around the congregation in the chuch and everyone eats from the plate. The same ritual is performed after 6 months and then again after 1 year, as the Greeks believe it can sometimes take this long for the body to ascend to God. Some families repeat the ritual again after 3 years.
The wearing of black as a mark of respect depends on how close the family members were to the deceased. For the immediate family, black is worn by women for 1 year. If a husband dies, the wife is supposed to wear black forever to respect her husband, unless she is young enough one day to marry again. Otherwise, the wife is expected to grieve for the remainder of her life. The only time she may go away from black is if she attends family weddings or baptisms, as black is bad luck at these joyous occasions. Then she may wear grey or dark blue instead. If a wife or female member of the family dies, the husband or relative wears a black armband. In some villages a black material is hung over the doorway of the house to show that someone has recently died.