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Why Do Greeks Break Plates at Weddings?

Susannah studied journalism and is a writer both online and off. She lives in Australia with her family.

Origins of a Strange Tradition

Whether at a traditional Greek wedding, in a story, or in a Hollywood movie, you've probably encountered this tradition. You may have asked yourself: why do Greeks break plates?

Well, to get one thing straight, this custom is not very common any longer in Greece. You're more likely to see it enacted in movies or Greek restaurants in the US (usually to appeal to tourists).

However, in the past, Greeks did smash plates at weddings. And the question remains: why would a person want to smash a good, clean, new plate instead of eating off it? (You've never seen anyone smash a dirty plate intentionally at a wedding, have you?) Read on to find out more about this intriguing tradition.

Why do Greek weddings involve smashing plates?

Why do Greek weddings involve smashing plates?

You probably won't have to worry about this happening at the next Greek wedding you attend.

Plate-Breaking in Perspective

Plate-breaking isn't just a traditional act performed at weddings. The wedding tradition appears to have been a later form of plate-smashing. One of the first mentioned events involving this strange tradition was funerals.

People attending death ceremonies would break plates to show their deep, emotional grieving. It helped to express their loss. So now what you've been waiting for—the main reason why plates get obliterated at matrimonial ceremonies.

New Beginnings

There may be two reasons that this tradition was used at weddings:

  1. Smashing plates symbolized new beginnings. It meant that the couple was throwing away their old life and embarking on a new life together.
  2. Smashing plates could fool the spirits. It was believed that breaking plates would keep the evil spirits at bay because they would believe the people involved were angry and upset—instead of celebrating. Of course, the evil spirits would not wish to interfere with an event that was already making people angry, while they may interfere with a happy celebration.

Do Plates Still Get Broken?

In short, no.

Most Greek weddings no longer involve plate breaking. For one thing, it gets too expensive, and for another, it's just more messy to clean up.

Modern Greek weddings are, in fact, similar to many Western weddings. And although Hollywood may have romanticized the whole idea of wedding plate smashing, it's not that popular at weddings any longer.

These days, the Greek wives keep the plate-smashing for when their husbands come home late from the pub after a night on the Ouzo...


Sissipus on August 23, 2016:

I was astounded at a Greek funeral to see the priest throw plates onto the coffin after dousing it liberally with olive oil. It was over all avery beautiful service , but intriguing to see the traditional practices

telly on March 29, 2013:

also to ward off evil spirits