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Columnists

March 25th Celebrations – The Current and Future Cultural Core of Hellenism in America

National Holidays have multiple dimensions, including just throwing a big party –like the recent Carnival in Greece – but the major ones do not merely commemorate the past, they shape the present and point to the future. On March 25th, a cultural force is unleashed that is not only a tribute to the unity that emerged 200 years ago that led to the independence we enjoy – if you think freedom from Ottoman oppression was automatic, ask a Kurd – but is also a force for Hellenic Unity today, bringing us all together.

It is a remarkable phenomenon that the anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 prompts ceremonies and other gatherings not only in Greece, but around the world. The credit for this vital element in global Hellenism is due to the love and efforts of the leaders and members of Greek communities everywhere – and to the institutions especially focused on preserving and promoting Hellenism outside Greece, the federations, the Orthodox Chruch, and news outlets like The National Herald.

In some places, however, March 25 – and its celebrations, no matter when they are held, have an additional dimension and function.

In the Greek-American community, it is a golden opportunity to engage and teach the children and grandchildren of immigrants about Greek culture and history – but especially, non-Greeks who marry into our families. One of the most disturbing realities about discussions about the future of the Greek-American community is that is they rarely include one seminal, serious, actionable fact: 80% of Greeks in the United States marry non-Greeks. That is the Archdiocese figure. Taking into account weddings outside churches, the number reaches 90%. This is nothing new – it’s been at least 70 % since 1990. Yes, the alarm has been ringing for decades, but we have been hitting the snooze button, in the U.S. and in Greece. What should we have been doing? More summer camps in Greece (at least in Crete, Delphi, and around Thessaloniki – with substantial scholarship funds), a complete overhaul in Greek education (25 years ago Archbishop Spyridon’s committee called for better Greek language schools in areas that could sustain them, and English-language cultural classes in places like Kansas City, Minneapolis, Phoenix, etc. That has not been acted upon.

That is for kids. How about young adults? There must be increased support for excellent programs like College Year in Athens (CYA), AHI’s Student trip to Greece and Cyprus, the National Hellenic Society’ (NHS) Heritage Greece program, AHEPA’s Journey to Greece, and the Archdiocese’s Ionian Village, to name a few.

FRESH IDEAS NEEDED – HOW ABOUT ‘SPRING BREAK IN GREECE’?

The Community can do that – but what can the Greek state do? Can we work on developing a ‘Spring Break in Greece’ movement? Athens has become a world class ‘City Break’ center, with cultural and social venues galore year round – and chances for the young to connect with their families – how about discounted air tickets to Greek-American young adults?

That is one idea – we must generate more, but the heart of a revived, revised ‘Greek Paidea’ and outreach to our Youth will continue to be Greek Independence Day celebrations.

 

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