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Greek Orthodox Funeral Services

Greek Orthodox Funeral Services

Everything you need to know about the tradition of the Greek Orthodox funeral and memorial services. Learn about koliva, proshoro, wine, and other traditional foods of the Greek funeral.

Understanding the Ceremony: Religious and Traditional Significance

There are many religious and traditional components to a Greek Orthodox funeral service. Most Greek Orthodox churches may require the family of the deceased to provide certain items for the service. These items may include a bottle of olive oil, wine, prosphoro and koliva. The priest will use these items during the service and each has its own importance. The oil and wine is usually poured over the body or coffin, in the shape of the cross by the priest. Symbolizing the last anointing and last cleansing of the body and soul. The prosphoro which means “offering” is a small, round loaf of leavened bread known for its stamp of Jesus Christ conquers on it. The priest takes the bread and reads the list of names for prayers of the living and dearly departed.

Koliva: A Dish of Remembrance

Koliva, which is primarily made up of boiled wheat berries is generally associated with death. These berries symbolize everlasting life in the Greek Orthodox Church. A traditional Orthodox funeral or memorial service will always have koliva. Koliva is a mixture of wheat berries along with walnuts, raisins, pomegranate, parsley, sesame seeds, toasted flour, and spices. Finally, it’s topped off with a solid blanket of confectioners’ sugar and an image of a cross made of blanched almonds, Jorden almonds, raisins, or silver candies. It is then distributed in small paper cups or bags with a plastic spoon in memory of your departed loved one. However plain koliva is commonly scattered by the priest over the grave at the end of the burial service.

The Makaria: A Celebration of Life After Loss

Another tradition of a Greek Orthodox funeral is the Mercy Meal also known as the Makaria. Once the funeral and burial service is over, the family of the deceased invites all those who have come to pay their respects to an informal luncheon. Although this is not mandatory, most families, however, do host a Mercy Meal at their community church hall, a restaurant or at home. This is a time for family and friends to come together and commemorate the deceased.

A Greek Mercy Meal always includes fish, symbolizing Christ’s resurrection. The Mercy Meal also includes sides of potatoes, rice, Gigantes beans, and salad. Each table may also have a bread basket and a platter of cheeses and olives. Depending on where you choose to host the Mercy Meal the options may differ. If you decide to host it at home, you can arrange for catering. A particular dark sweet red wine from Greece is served with the meal called Mavrodafni. Red wine in the Orthodox religion is also associated with the blood of Christ. The Mercy Meal ends with a platter of simple and slightly sweet paximathia. A very dry cookie that resembles the Italian biscotti and is more suitable for somber occasions. Metaxa, which is an amber-coloured Greek liqueur based on brandy is also served at this time along with coffee.

In a time of deep sorrow, you will find comfort at Select Bakery. Whether it’s from the welcoming family-run business or just finding pretty much everything you need. Select Bakery offers many of these essential items mentioned above, in a one-stop-shop location. From Koliva to cheese and halva platters to liquor, you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for. For more information and details contact the Bakery directly or visit them in person.

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