Every year the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church has a big Greek festival as a fundraiser for the Church and its services. Not only do they have booths with different types of Greek food such as souvlakia, pastries, loukamathes, calamari, and gyros, but also game booths for the kids and many booths with different Greek cultural items such as clothes and jewelry. My family has been a part of it every year and about five or so years ago my dad started his own booth, the souvlakia booth. Every year there is a competition to see who sells the most and every year we have been able to sell out by Sunday, which is awesome for the church. It is a very culture filled weekend (memorial day weekend) because there are also many different activities going on around the booths such as Greek dancing from the Golden Greeks and others along with Greek music from a live band and Greek cooking lessons on top of all that. This festival is mainly as a fundraiser but also made to share the Greek Orthodox culture with the community and get everyone involved in the different aspects of Greek life out in Los Angeles. The Greek community is really big around the valley and our Church isn’t the only one that has festivals and everyone from different churches comes and supports each Church during their festival.
The Greek Festival in the San Fernando Valley helps strengthen the bond between Greek members of the church, and also allows the general public to experience some Greek traditions that are not commonly seen in everyday activity. Kaitlin said that the Greek festival put on by her church brings Greek Orthodox members from other churches, too. This clearly brings together a unique cultural segment of Los Angeles so they can celebrate their heritage. However, the festival also allows the non-Greek Orthodox public in order to show the community what traditional Greek culture is like. Though the festival has some aspects that involve more authentic Greek traditions, like the Golden Greek dancers that dress in traditional dancing clothes and perform dances that have been around for centuries, many of the food booths sell modern Greek food that many of the church families eat on a regular basis. This blend of old and new gives the public a more encompassing view of Greek culture and may spark some interest in people that have never been exposed to this culture before. It also shows how original Greek traditions are changed as they are transmitted through generations and altered to fit life in Los Angeles.
This festival takes place each Memorial Day Weekend. Kaitlin said that there was no cultural significance behind this. She said that since the festival takes place during a three-day weekend, a lot of people are able to come to the festival, at least for one day. People can focus on food one day, and get involved in dances and other activities on another day. Also, the three days makes it easier for Greek churches from other cities (and even states) to come and participate in the festival.
Kaitlin has been involved with her churchs Greek festival since she was a little girl because her parents run a booth every year. Kaitlin said that she looks forward to the festival because it is a fun experience, and there is a vast amount of delicious Greek food to eat. Even for someone that is Greek like Kaitlin, the festival is a special occasion because she does not get to enjoy some traditional aspects of Greek culture on a daily basis. Going to the festival reminds her of her familys roots, and also gives her a chance to connect with other members of her church. In addition, it has given Kaitlin the opportunity to bring friends to the festival who are unfamiliar with Greek culture. By doing so, she exposes them to Greek life and some of her familys traditions.
I have gone to the same Greek festival that Kaitlins family participates in since I was a little girl. My next-door neighbors are also members of that church and told my family about the festival, so every Memorial Day weekend I make sure to go to the festival. I love going because it has been a tradition, and also because I really like the Greek food and music. Even though it is held in front of the church and clearly does not look like Greece, I feel like everyone at the festival is separate from the rest of the world for the weekend. Also, everyone at the festival shares this common experience, and it is easy to feel like you are actually a part of the Greek community. Therefore, it seems like festivals, regardless of what culture they are celebrating, help bring all members of the community together by linking together people who share a similar heritage, or even similar interests in a certain culture.