THE BLOG
01/14/2015 09:51 am ET Updated Mar 14, 2015

What Does Xronia Polla Mean to You?

If you're Greek or have ever socialized with Greeks, you've likely heard of the versatile expression, Xronia Polla (Χρόνια Πολλά).

Want to wish a Greek person happy birthday? Tell him Xronia Polla!

Is it someone's Name Day (when Greek Orthodox celebrate their patron saint/ecclesiastical feast)? Wish her Xronia Polla!

Did a couple get married? Convey to them Xronia Polla!

Just earned your driver's licence? Xronia Polla!

Graduate university? Xronia Polla!

Got a promotion? Xronia Polla!

Expecting a baby? Xronia Polla!

Learned to cook a whole lamb to perfection? Xronia Polla!

Greece miraculously wins the 2004 UEFA European Championship? XRONIA POLLA!

Its literal translation is 'Many Years' but this does little to describe its everyday use and almost nothing to express its profound meaning.

I've been giving and receiving many 'Xronia Pollas' lately.

The Christmas holidays are ripe with opportunities to use the expression.

New Year's; Xronia Polla - kai tou xronou!

The Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord (Jan. 6) and St. John the Baptist (Jan. 7). Xronia Polla! Xronia Polla!! Xronia Polla!!!

This year, though, for reasons unknown, this expression of love - for that's what it is at its core - which I've been saying and hearing my entire life has taken on an additional, deeper meaning.

When I reflect on what one is trying convey with these wishes, it's not just a haphazard selection of words or a mechanical conversational response, it's an expression for good health, for joy, for patience, for gentleness and forgiveness and, maybe most of all, for faithfulness to God.

I can't think of a parallel English-language expression that comes close to resembling its fullness of meaning.

'Best wishes' or even 'All the best' seem so empty in comparison.

Xronia Polla said within a religious context is especially meaningful.

St. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians that we "are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).

When someone expresses Xronia Polla, it's not only an individual salutation but more than that - a sincere wish for humanity.

It's similar, in this regard (i.e., combining the individual with the corporate), to one of the petitions in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: For all that is good and beneficial to our souls, and for peace in the world, let us ask the Lord.

On the one hand Xronia Polla denotes personal congratulations and 'Many Years' but on the other hand it is also a wish for those around us - our family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances - because despite the prevalence of individualism in our day, we are all one, living on the same earth, each of us made in the image and likeness of the God-man (Theanthropos) Christ.

I'm just now beginning to realize the immeasurable value of Xronia Polla; for me, the term transcends understanding and words cannot fully encapsulate its significance.