Greek Culture and Traditions
University of Akron
June 13, 2006
I recently attended a festival at the Greek Orthodox Church in my hometown. Each year for about four days, the members of the church block off the streets surrounding their church and a festival including singing, dancing, Greek food delights and other cultural events specific to the Greek people in my town ensues.
The congregation of this church is very old and stable. The Greek population all attend services at this cathedral and the rituals and traditions are carried on and passed down from generation to generation. Marriages are arranged so as not to dilute the heritage and there are even brides sent from Greece to marry the eligible bachelors of Steubenville, OH. One of my best friends in high school belongs to this church and every year she and I meet for an evening of eating, dancing and catching up at the festival. This year's meeting was extra-special for me, because I had a chance to ask Irene, my friend, questions about her heritage and culture and observe the rituals and traditions that are a part of her culture.
Most important at the festival is the food. Legs of lamb and chickens turn slowly on big spits over hot braziers of glowing charcoal. The lamb is served over the traditional rice pilaf a is the chicken. Plaki or baked cod is the favorite fish dish and a lamb stew and the famous Souzoukaki (meatballs) and Loukaniko (Grecian sausage) are additional choices on the menu. The Greeks favor vegetables in their diet and Moussaka a dish made with grilled eggplant slices and Spanakopita, filo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese are a favorite of my mother but not me. My favorite is the GYRO sandwich. GYRO is a meat that is made from lamb, spiced beef and veal pressed to make a large slab. The GYRO meat is shaved thin and put in a pita bread pocked and topped with lettuce, tomatoes and a cucumber sauce. All these food items
are prepared using recipes brought over from Greece and handed down through the generations of Greek families.
There are many sweets to sample at the festival, too. Honey drenched donuts are called Loukoumades and the Diples, which are like a funnel cake only dipped in warm honey are my favorite. Baklava, a pistachio and walnut mix layered in filo dough and covered in honey is another delicacy. Cookies such as the Kourambiedes and Koulourakie are found here and are all buttery flavored cookie dough either rolled in walnuts or pistachio nuts or then drizzled with honey. Ouzo, the potent Greek liquor flows in abundance but one sip of this is enough for anyone not experience with this strong liquor.
There is entertainment each night of the festival with the Greek Company providing the music and the dancers performing traditional Greek dances complete with traditional costumes. The dancers are children of the church whose study of the Greek culture includes the music and dance of Greece. I think this is a wonderful tradition because this ritual will not be lost as the young people grow and mature. Church tours are given by the elders and the Grecian Ladies' society and the history of the icons and the other art work of the Orthodox cathedral is something to behold.
While I have attended this festival every year since I was in eighth grade, I still am fascinated by the sense of family that is felt at this event. Everyone treats everyone like a part of his or her family and there are hugs and other physical displays of affection found everywhere. When the dancers are finished with their performance they go out into the crowd and bring up spectators and teach them the steps of the dances. No one is a stranger at this festival and once someone has been there he or she now will realize he or she is a part of the culture and traditions of the Greek Church and the Greek community in Steubenville, Ohio.
As in most of the Eastern European...