Plate smashing is a Greek custom involving the smashing of plates or glasses during celebratory occasions. In popular culture, the practice is most typical of foreigners' stereotypical image of Greece, and while it occurs more rarely today, it continues to be seen on certain occasions, such as weddings, although plaster plates are more likely to be used.
History in Greece
Ancient and medieval
The custom probably derives from an ancient practice of ritually "killing" plates on mourning occasions, as a means of dealing with loss. Breaking plates may also be related to the ancient practise of conspicuous consumption, a display of one's wealth, as plates or glasses are thrown into a fireplace following a banquet instead of being washed and reused.
In 1969, the military dictatorship of Georgios Papadopoulos, that had suspended democracy and ruled Greece autocratically from 1967 to 1974, banned plate smashing to the great disappointment of Greeks and foreign tourists alike. While it is no longer officially allowed at Greek nightclubs, it still happens occasionally. For private celebrations such as weddings, modern Greeks may purchase specially-produced plaster plates, which are less expensive and dangerous, while being more easily broken. Another modern variation on the custom is for diners at small Greek restaurants or tavernas to buy trays of flowers that they can throw at singers and each other.
In popular culture
- In the Three's Company episode "Opening Night," (November 16, 1982) Larry Dallas invites his family, visiting from Greece, to Jacks Bistro. The large family gathering ends with the Greek celebratory custom of the breaking of plates. Reluctant at first because of all the money it will cost to replace the plates, Jack joins in the celebration when Larry says they will cover the bill for each plate. Jack then looks at Janet who shows him the final cost of all the plates that were broken. Jack, while clenching the remaining two plates he owns, throws them up in the air and says "Opa!" and lets them break as well.
- In Part I of The Love Boat S6 E18 episode (February 5, 1983) titled: "Isaac's Aegean Affair/The Captain and the Kid/Poor Rich Man/The Dean and the Flunkee," Gopher initiates plate smashing in a Greek restaurant.
- In the Full House episode, "Greek Week", there is a scene at a Greek family party where Joey Gladstone leads the crowds in plate smashing while Danny Tanner frantically tries to clean up the broken plates off the floor.
- In the Frasier episode "Beware of Greeks," (March 17, 1998), Frasier's Greek cousin is getting married and his cousin's mother smashes plates at the wedding reception.
- In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, episode 2.6 (November 12, 2005 ), Coconut Head smashes a plate on his head for his presentation on Greece.
- The 2009 Australian stop motion animated dark comedy film Mary and Max features a plate smashing scene.
- In Packed to the Rafters, episode 4.1 (February 8, 2011), the character Nick 'Carbo' Karandonis and his fiancée have an engagement party which includes smashing plaster plates and the mistaken smashing of porcelain plates.
- In Come Dine with Me Canada, episode 2.16 (October 3, 2011), the evening ended with plate smashing "in keeping with the Greek ritual."
- In Kitchen Cabinet, episode 2.3 (July 16, 2013), independent Australian Senator Nick Xenophon and host Annabel Crabb end a dinner discussion at a Greek "yiros" restaurant with an impromptu plate smashing.
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