Social Encore: Going Greek

Aug. 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

My girl cousins and I have always dreamed of visiting Greece’s beautiful Santorini coast. Sipping on some wine, being immersed in the Greek culture and being in great company is an ideal vacation for me.

But who says we can’t experience authentic Greek culture here in Hawaii? This weekend at McCoy Pavilion, the 34th annual Greek Festival will immerse you in traditional Greek food and fare.

greek fest

34TH ANNUAL GREEK FESTIVAL

» Where: McCoy Pavilion
» When: Noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
» Cost: $3 general admission; $1 for those wearing a toga; free for keiki under 12 years old and military with valid ID
» Info: www.greekfestivalhawaii.com
» Note: Parking is limited; first-time Uber users can sign up with the code “GREEKFEST” for a $20 ride credit

The Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Pacific organizes the festival each year to raise money for the church and other non-profit organizations, like the Hawaii Food Bank and Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

This year marks the church’s 50th anniversary, and Greek Festival chairperson Austin Vali said the festival has a ton of activities for the whole family.

Vali’s family has been involved in Greek festivals that go back to the early 1960s in New York. Being a member of the church for over 15 years, he said the festival is a great way to step into a different world.

“The festival is a great way to share the Greek culture with different people,” he said. “The food, for example, all the food being made are from family recipes that have been handed down from generations.”

Some of the food that will be served are traditional dishes such as moussaka, a casserole baked dish that has layers of eggplant, seasoned meat sauce, bechamel sauce and is sprinkled with cheese. For people looking for Mediterranean food that’s more vegetarian, there will be spanakopita, a baked item with a mixture of spinach, onions, feta cheese, eggs and spices between layers of buttered filo dough.

Greek plate lunches, Greek pizza, calamari and a salad booth are other options available as well.

If you are looking for Greek sweets like baklava, there will be other pastries that you may also want to try. Try a melomakarona, a delicious spice cookie soaked in a honey-based syrup made with vegetable oil, nuts, oranges, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, or ravani, an almond sponge cake that’s also soaked in a sweet syrup with hints of cinnamon and lemon juice.

Like many European countries, wine is a big part of Greek culture. This year, you’ll find white, red, restina and ouzo wines imported from Greece. If something from the brewery is more you’re your style, you’ll be able to find imported Greek beer and Stella Artois on tap.

If you want to take home a small piece of Greece with you, you’ll find an array of clothing, pottery, beads and fisherman hats at the festival’s Greek Marketplace. If food items are more your thing, then the festival’s agora will have a variety of imported goods like Greek coffee, Greek honey, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese and extra virgin olive oil.

Entertainment for the weekend include Mythos, a six-piece band from San Jose, Calif. that plays rebetika (Greek blues), laiko (popular music), dimotika (traditional folk) and island music. The Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox church has a group of dancers that range in age and will perform traditional Greek dances at the auditorium on Saturday and Sunday.

If learning how to cook Greek favorites is more of your interest, you can join Christina Dimitrion in the auditorium on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. as she demonstrates quick and easy Greek recipes. If you have children, there will be a station where kids can take a break from the food and paint their own Greek pottery.

Interesting parts of the festival this year are two presentations hoping to create discussion around religion and history. At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dr. Carlos Moreno will present “A Photographic Journey to the Holy Sites,” a photo journey of the world’s most fascinating holy sites like The Holy Land, Egypt, Turkey, Mount Athos, Greece and Russia.

On Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Dr. Robert Arakaki, Alice Malick and Father Alexander Leong will present “The Chinese Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion.” It’s an enlightening presentation that talks about Chinese Martyrs history and how it draws parallels to the modern day persecution and killing of Christians in the Mideast.

The church has about 63 families and will be there to run the festival for the two days. Vali said the main reason why the Church has kept the festival going is because it gives them an opportunity to share their Greek heritage and gives an opportunity for families both from the church and the general public to bond.

Vali’s mother passed away four years ago during Greek festival weekend and he said sharing Greek traditions with future generations is something she wanted to keep alive.

“I keep doing this festival in the memory of my mother and to spread the Greek heritage,” said Vali. “Hawaii is known to be a community full of different cultures. What better place to learn about Greek culture than here In Hawaii.”

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