Peloponnesians - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Virtually all the inhabitants of the Peloponnesos are Orthodox Christians. Parts of the region were Christianized as early as A.D. 51 when Saint Paul lived and preached in Corinth. Nevertheless, certain "pagan" (pre-Christian) practices are still a part of local worship and festivals. Saints' days are celebrated along with the various Christian holidays, major and minor. Easter is the most important celebration followed by Christmas and the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin on 15 August. Patras has the largest pre-Lenten carnival in Greece and smaller celebrations take place in every village and town. Village priests preside over local religious affairs, conducting regular services, weddings, baptisms, and funerals. There is a large bishopric at Patras and several others elsewhere as well as numerous monasteries scattered about the peninsula.

Arts. Most traditional arts are rapidly disappearing or are already gone from the Peloponnesos. The region has produced some famous painters of icons and religious frescos in the past, but there is no particular tradition there today. Nor is much left of the traditional music for which the peninsula was once famous, although occasionally one finds an old musician tucked away in a remote village. In Mani and several other places the women still sing the famous mirologia, traditional funeral dirges, although even this seems to be a dying art. The Kalamatiano, a dance named after the city of Kalamata, where it presumably originated, is one of the most popular folk dances among Greeks everywhere.

Medicine. Modern scientific and traditional folk medicine are practiced side by side in many parts of the Peloponnesos. A law requiring all Greek doctors to spend up to 18 months in rural areas ensures that every citizen has some access to modern medical care, but folk practices persist and rural People especially often rely on home cures and local bonesetters. In theory, medical care is socialized, but under-the-table payments are common, especially for surgery. Overall the people of the region are healthy and have a high life expectancy and low rates of infant mortality.

Death and Afterlife. The dead are buried within 24 hours of dying and funerals tend to be (next to marriage) the most important rites of passage celebrated in Greece. Memorial services are held at intervals of 6 days, 9 days, 40 days, and one year after death. Relatives can (and frequently do) organize additional services. Three years after interment the bones are exhumed and placed in a box, which is usually stored in a church crypt. Cemeteries are generally well maintained and frequently visited, although in depopulated Villages they are likely to be run-down and neglected. Greek Orthodox doctrine stipulates that there is an afterlife; many people appear to believe this, but others clearly do not.

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