In a few days it will be March 25th. This day marks a very important day in the life of a Greek as it is Greek Independence Day. If you live in a city with a large Greek population there may be a parade to commemorate the day. Boston, Toronto, New York, all have parades where thousands line the streets and shout ZHTO H ELLADA! ZHTO H 25H MARTIOU! I remember growing up as a little girl dressed up in my Basilisa Amala outfit and being presented with a poem that I needed to memorize either on my own or with a partner to present at our Greek School program. I remember the nervousness about the room. From the kids–would we remember our lines when the time came. From the parents–would their child represent them well in front of the entire community. Somehow that two passed and I guess sparked my love for public speaking. When you’re getting up in front of a couple of hundred people at the age of six and seven, really what is a couple of thousand people when you’re in your twenties and thirties. I remember being a member of the Hellenic Society and marching in the parade when it started in Boston. I still have a favourite photo of mine with me, ready to march, and my dad, a former evzone, ready to march.
I know many of you will have your Greek Flag as a temporary cover photo on Facebook this week. You’ll make sure you have your blue and white clothes on this Saturday as you represent. But what can you be doing year round to commemorate this day? Can you be teaching your children about it, more than just once a year? Can you represent by giving back to those in our community who need help, either by giving of your time or services? I know that there are many programs in Toronto for elder Greeks and even a Greek nursing home. Is there an opportunity to volunteer and make a plan to visit once a month and read to the seniors? I know in Boston (Canton actually) there is a Greek nursing home as well or what about Philoxenia House? Can you volunteer to go cook a meal for the individuals who are staying there? My point being that being Greek or rather celebrating your Greek heritage shouldn’t be a March 25th event only. It should be an everyday event. How can you use your talents and relay to the world how amazing we truly are?
At a time when the world is seeing Greece as problem country with all of the debt it has, and the refugees that have fled to this country, let us show them how amazing and wonderful the people are. Let us show them that we haven’t lost our sense of philotimo and philoxenia. Let us show them that the pride that we carry in our hearts doesn’t turn off the other 364 days a year.
The Greek National Anthem
Σὲ γνωρίζω ἀπὸ τὴν κόψι
Τοῦ σπαθιοῦ τὴν τρομερή,
Σὲ γνωρίζω ἀπὸ τὴν ὄψι,
Ποῦ μὲ βιά μετράει τὴν γῆ.
Ἀπ’ τὰ κόκκαλα βγαλμένη
Τῶν Ἑλλήνων τὰ ἱερά,
Καὶ σὰν πρῶτα ἀνδρειωμένη,
Χαῖρε, ὢ χαῖρε, Ἐλευθεριά!
For my non Greek speaking friends you can find a translation of the Anthem here.
I know religion is such a hot topic most of the time. Recently I was home with the little one on a Sunday morning and two kind individuals took the time to come knock on my door and want to invite me to Jesus’ funeral. They had a paper invitation and everything. Now as a woman who spent 12 years in Catholic School, 4 years in a Jesuit College, countless years as a Sunday School student and teacher and a lifetime at Sunday Mass, I’m not one to shy away from a conversation around religion. While I thanked the individuals for stopping by and their invitation I let them know I’d happily invite them to come to my church the week after their ‘funeral’ (I am Greek Orthodox after all) and see a funeral done properly. One that includes flowers, an Ἐπιτάφιο, chanting, etc. I also told them I’d happily host them on Holy Saturday night for midnight mass and they can be part of the amazing service where the church lights and candles are all turned off/put out and the priest comes out with the Αγιο Φος (Holy Light) to represent Jesus’ resurrection. Needless to say the individuals left and took their invitation with them as they had no desire to speak about religion but rather just wanted to tell me about their religion.
This got me thinking about all of the wonderful traditions that we’re about to embark on with the little lady for the first time. Not only are we about to celebrate του Ευαγγελισμου and Greek Independence Day tomorrow but also the important Easter traditions that will be coming soon after that. As a Greek it is special because I know that I’ll be passing down traditions that have been passed down from generations. From Palm Sunday Mass to dying red Easter eggs on Holy Thursday, to making κουλουρακια with γιαγια, I can’t wait to see the excitement in her eyes.
I was able to find this site of Greek Poems which brought me back to my Greek School days and the events that we’d have. Dressed up in our Vasilissa Amalia outfits and the boys as τσολιαδες, standing in front of the community and reciting poems that our parents recited before us. Remembering the struggles and just having an overall sense of pride. My father served as an Evzone in the Greek Army. He stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and represented Greece abroad. He did his part for his country. I can only hope that one day my daughter understands what this meant. This will be done by more than just standing on a parade route and shouting Ζητο! This will be done by living our Greekness.
A friend once said that he didn’t want to be a plate breaking, τιροπιτα eating Greek. I say bring that on because it is part of who we are, but don’t stop there. Let’s teach the next generation about the history of then and the history that is taking shape in Greece today. Let’s remind them that Greece is more than φραππεδες and beautiful beaches. Let’s do our job and raise the next generation of ελληνακια right!
For my friends celebrating in Toronto you can find parade information here. For my friends celebrating in Boston you can find parade information here.
Ζητο η 25η Μαρτιου! Ζητο η Ελευθερία!
Η Ελλαδα ποτε δεν πεθενει!