Religion and customs related to it
Despite the fact that many modern Greeks aren't religious, they still almost uniformly baptise their children around the age of one, and name them at that time, with the custom of naming children for grandparents of the same sex, though customs vary from place to place as to which parent's parent name is first bestowed on which gender of child in what order.
Naming the Kid-aki
Baptising of children is a major event in the life cycle in Greek people. The church service is most often followed by feasting, often with music and dancing, sometimes held at a taverna or hall, and is an event on which some Greek families spend large sums of money). Aki really is a kids name too: O Akees!
Children are much loved and doted upon in Greece, and grow up in a circle of loving relatives, often cared for by grandparents or other relatives while the parents are working. Many Greek families share the same houses or apartment buildings, or live in neighboring houses in villages, the extended family at the heart of Greek culture, with the church and its ceremonies very much like an umbrella that includes the extended families that make up Greek communities. First names are usually chosen from those of the Greek Orthodox Saints such as Saint John, Thomas, Andrew or Dimitri for men and Sophia, Ioanna (Joan) or Katerina for ladies. There are many more variation in Sir names than in first names, in Greece, particularly for men.
Some times Greek sir names can sound absurd to western ears: Mr. Chicken, or Mr Goat even Mrs. Erota.
Not Birthdays but Saint Name Days are celebrated ! Yiortaso!
Another example of this is the saint's day festival (glendi) and the related name-day. Greeks also almost uniformly also celebrate their 'name days' (the saint's day for the saint whose name they share).
For example, on Aghios Giorgos (St. George's Day) in April, all men and boys with the name Giorgos celebrate their name-day, as do all girls and women with the name Giorgia (Georgia).
On Aghios Michalis (St. Michael's Day), boys and men with the name Michalis and girls and women with the name Mihaela, similarly celebrate.
The name day is known as a 'yeorti', as is the saint's day celebrated by church dedicated to that saint, on whih days a church service is held in all churches and chapels belonging to (ie. named for) the saint whose day it is, and in many cases a 'glendi', or celebration, follows, often in the church courtyard if weather permits, frequenly with feasting, music and dance.
On an individual level, anyone celebrating a yeorti is expected to have some sweets (snacks, drinks, and sometimes food) to give/serve guests who visit her/his home on that day. The appropriate greeting to the celebrant is 'Chronia polla!' ( literally, 'Many years!', but similar in meaning to the expression 'Many happy returns!). The same words (often used in parting) will be heard after Paskha (Greek Easter), though in the week leading up to that day one must say, 'Kalo Paskha' (Good Easter!).
Apart from the saint's day glendi in a local church or chapel, those celebrating their Yiorti may also go out for a meal with their 'parea' (their best friends), or with their families.
Though the birthday is now also celebrated in Greece, it is a relative newcomer to Greek culture, imported from the west, the name-day being far older and more traditional. It is easy to see that the name day is more of a collective event which derives in turn from another collective phenomenon-the traditional passing on of family names over the generations-with those names and the rituals governing them defined by the collectivity of the Orthodox church. All of these things make very clear both unifying cultural role of the Orthodox church in Greece, something that doesn't depend on how 'religious' individuals are, and when the more religious ones light candles in chapels to their favorite saints, there is something both extremely familial and personal about this appeal for help to a spiritual entity, far different from prayers addressed to an abstract God.
Many of the small chapels seen all over the Greek countryside are built by families to honor their patron saint and ensure protection by that saint.