Analysis: The Greek Festivals, and a Suggestion

Volunteers at the St. George Greek Festival in Piscataway grilling octopus. (Photo by Arete Bouhlas)

We have entered Greek Festival season, and in every parish the festivals will continue through the summer to late September or early October.

It is a decades-long tradition that on the one hand provides tasty Greek food and fun for young and old alike, and on the other hand substantially contributes to the parishes’ economic support or, more aptly, their sustenance.

After all, is it a “common secret” that the parishes cannot make ends meet financially without the festivals. I …

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  1. It is a teaching of the faith that Orthodox Christians observe a strict fast on Wednesday and Friday of each week except for certain times in the year. But what are we taught when parish festivals serve meat and dairy on Friday during their festivals? This is not to criticize anyone who doesn’t fast on Wednesday and Friday. On the other hand, can we expect people to fast when the clergy, hierarchs and priests, do not set an example by not allowing the Friday fast be observed because of a festival? And, of course, the mega raffles are another issue altogether. It is ironic that Bingo was outlawed many years ago but raffles are ok. Festivals are great as a source of income and especially as an opportunity for the faithful in a community to work so hard together. But, there are other things to consider.

  2. Considering the dwindling population in our parishes and the absence of healthy – Christ centered ministries to keep families engaged in parish life, it’s safe to say that the income from our festivals is paying the priests’ salary as well keeping the lights and the heat on in the parish. But for how long? Festivals are supposed to showcase the richness of our faith and welcome new people into Her loving embrace.
    Evangelism is a foreign word to Greeks. We are not living the Great commission of Christ, “Go make disciples of all nations”. Members of my community consider the festival to be of greater importance than Holy week. And the reason – the festival makes more money.
    Our local Congregational church ( 8000 members ) understands the great commission of Christ. And they do not have festivals.

  3. In Chicago we were routinely reviled for hosting fund raising festivals in our parishes, yet “you must pay” increasing assessments annually were the norm. “You must not have raffles, festivals, bingos” according to our late Metropolitan, who still demanded his stipend and demanded we borrow the money from the bank and demand that parishioners donate more towards their stewardship. Fun stuff. He beamed with joy at each Clergy-Laity Congress when it was announced that Chicago paid the most of any other Metropolis towards the GOA.

    When hosting the festivals, we would then be subjected to those demanding we not serve meat on Fridays or other fast days by the holier than thou gang. In order words, those of us working like dogs for the parish couldn’t win even if we tried. Fun stuff. Did the Greek owned restaurants and diners refuse to serve meat to customers during fast days? Were they reviled by the Ephraimites for their behavior?

    With a new Metropolitan, hopefully during the next round of “collections” by Pauly Walnuts and other members of the Soprano Gang in the Chicago Diocese Council Metropolis will be over, and the old thugs who did Metropolitan Iakovos’ bidding will be replaced by others more respectful of the actual process and of what actual stewardship means.

    But somehow the thugs always worm their way back into the folds of the GOA. Something our current Hierarchy will also need to explain to their downtrodden masses still left to harass.

  4. Most parishes get as much as one third of their funds from festivals. But let’s be serious, the festivals are also a marketing tool for the local Greek eateries. Too many of the parish councils are marketing arms for all sorts of Greek business, rather than faith.

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