Everyone’s family is dysfunctional. There are those loud, opinionated relatives who you love, but maybe try to avoid in long doses at family functions. Or those who ask you wildly inappropriate questions. My family is definitely one of those families.
My family is also Greek, so when “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” first came out in 2002, my parents were overwhelmed with joy, because hardly any films revolved around Greek American families. Having married a nice Jewish boy myself (which initially caused a little scandal, as I’m the first in my family not to marry someone in the church), I can’t help but notice all of the similarities between Jewish and Greek culture.
Of course, my mom is pretty much kvelling right now over the fact that there’s a sequel set for release in March 2016, aptly titled “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” She treats it like our cultural bible–but really, the bickering of Maria Portokalos and Aunt Voula completely mimics my Jewish in-laws (in the most loving way possible).
It would also be remiss not to chronicle these similarities in the spirit of Hanukkah, considering the story behind the holiday. Perhaps if the Greeks and the Maccabees realized how much we all have in common, they could have avoided that whole war (but then there wouldn’t be latkes, so, nevermind).
Here are six ways Jewish and Greek culture really are quite similar. In my case, now everyone is just one big fat Greek/Jewish family:
1. Showing love through food. And a lot of the food is actually pretty similar (or the same!). There’s a lot of pita and hummus. And the Greek form of baba ganoush is called melitzanosalata, while challah’s Greek counterpart is tsoureki or christopsomo.
2. Grandmothers are pretty important. Jews call them bubbes, and Greeks call them yiayias.
3. Everyone wants you to get married and make babies. ASAP. The movie totally illustrates this (“We don’t think you heard us. Make us grandparents NOW!”).
5. Both American Greeks and Jews share the stereotypical story of having hardworking immigrant parents who just want the best for their kids. And of course, they also want them to cherish their heritage. Sounds about right.
6. Guilt. Lots of guilt. Parents’ loving attitudes about wanting the best for their children (all while being super into their culture) can leave their kids facing anxiety and guilt over disappointing them. Especially if they make a major life choice they know their parents won’t approve of (like marrying someone outside of your faith).