The most commonly used Greek term for grandfather is pappous. This is, of course, a phonetic or Americanized spelling since the Greek language uses a different alphabet. You may also see it rendered as pappoo, papu, or papou.
A more affectionate term is pappouli. The difference between pappous and pappouli is much like the difference between father and daddy.
Greek Family Traditions
In traditional Greek culture, the woman is the queen of the home and of the social realm. The man is the head of business. In Greece many families are in business together, so the grandfather is traditionally not only the head of the family but also the head of the family business. Women often work by the sides of their husbands, at least until child-rearing duties become too demanding.
Greeks believe in two definitions of family. The conjugal family is what we call the nuclear family. The larger family, what most call an extended family, is of equal importance. Members of the extended family gather often, greet each other warmly and love to share food and drink.
Paternal grandparents hold a special place in Greek culture. Traditionally young couples were expected to live near the groom’s parents, leading to paternal grandparents being closer to grandchildren.
Greek culture displays considerable unity because almost everyone speaks the same language and attends the same church. The Greek Orthodox Church is a central feature of Greek culture. Having observant grandchildren is very important to traditional Greek grandparents. Greek families who immigrate to other countries typically encourage children and grandchildren to learn the Greek language.
Greeks tend to have a strong national identity and to value independence and self-determination. Within the family, having a good name is paramount.
Naming After Grandparents
In Greek tradition, children are named after their grandparents. The usual pattern is that the first son is named after the paternal grandfather and the second after the maternal grandfather. The pattern is the same for daughters.
Modern parents of Greek heritage sometimes dispense with this system and sometimes modify it. They may give their children the traditional names in baptismal ceremonies, but use different names on official documents and in everyday life. They may give the grandparents’ names as first names, but call their children by their middle names.
Partly these strategies serve to distinguish family members from each other, as the traditional method results in many members having the same names.
Traditionally Greeks celebrate their Name Day rather than their birthday. Greek names are saint names, and one’s Name Day is the birthday of that saint rather than one’s own birthday. On Name Days, homes are open to visitors, who traditionally bring gifts of sweets or liquor.
Since grandfathers in every country are supposed to be founts of wisdom, they often dispense proverbs, such as these Greek ones.
- Hawks will not pick out hawks’ eyes. People rare attack those of their own kind.
- A drowning man takes hold of his own hair. A person in a desperate situation sometimes acts ineffectually.
- A cat with gloves catches no mice. You can’t get what you want by being too nice.
- Curses are like chickens; they come home to roost. You may suffer the ill fate you wish on others.