Friday, October 17, 2008
So anyway I found that article I was looking for:
"In its earliest form, plate smashing may be a survival of the ancient custom of ritually "killing" the ceramic vessels used for feasts commemorating the dead. The voluntary breaking of plates, which is a type of controlled loss, may also have helped participants in dealing with the deaths of their loved ones, a loss which they could not control.
"Similar offerings may also have been presented at other times to include the dead in festival proceedings, with the result that this custom for the dead began to be tied in with all kinds of celebrations...
"Breaking plates can also be a symbol of anger, a classic part of domestic disturbances. Since plate breaking often occurs at happy occasions, it may have begun as a way of fooling malicious spirits into thinking that the event is a violent one instead of a celebration.
"Worldwide, noise is believed to drive away evil, and the sound of the plates smashing against the stone or marble floors of Greek houses would be loud enough to scare off almost anything.
"There is a phrase used by children about sidewalk cracks - "Step on a crack or you'll break the Devil's dishes". In early Crete, ritual offerings and vessels were thrown into cracks and fissures located near peak sanctuaries. These "cracks" would certainly have had "dishes" in them, and later followers of Christianity may have demonized the old practice.
"Since the children's chant is actually a caution to avoid stepping on cracks, it may refer back to ancient associations with these "dishes". So breaking plates during a performance may be a way of protecting the dancers and musicians by destroying supposedly evil influences present in the poor plates...
"...Usually, breaking plates in praise of a musician or dancer is considered a part of "kefi" - the irrepressible expression of emotion and joy.
"A plate might also be broken when two lovers parted, so that they would be able to recognize each other by matching the two halves even if many years passed before they met again. Small split versions of the mysterious Phaistos disk are used by modern Greek jewellers this way, with one half kept and worn by each of the couple.
"Breaking plates is also an act which implies abundance - "We have so many plates we can break them!" - similar to lighting a fire with a piece of paper money."
Etc etc. (by a travel writer called deTraci Regula at http://gogreece.about.com)