They Remember America

May 6, 2021
Βy Antonis H. Diamataris

We celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in Greece in hot weather.

The temperature on Easter Sunday exceeded 90 degrees fahrenheit, despite the fact that it was still early spring – but it was May Day, and nature celebrated.

Despite the heat, however, the experience of Easter in Greece this year will be unforgettable.

Hundreds participated in the Resurrection service at the historic monastery of the Holy Trinity of Tzagarolon in Chania on the island of Crete. Everyone adhered to the various COVID-19 guidelines, wearing masks, and holding candles as they maintained proper distance from one another. With dignity and reverence they filled the beautiful courtyard of the Monastery.

Inside the Katholikon, the Monastery’s main church, an architectural masterpiece, every other seat was empty per the Coronavirus rules.

The atmosphere inside and outside the nave was ecstatic. It was indeed an unforgettable religious experience that maximized the mystery, the miraculous, the great message of Hope of the Resurrection of the God-Man.

The Abbot of the Monastery, monks, and chanters created the perfect atmosphere for the Resurrection service that elevated everyone’s spirit.

On Easter Sunday, without losing the presence of the Risen Christ, it was time to partake in the festivities which included traditional lamb cooked on spits at the house of close relatives and friends. And the cooking was not just on the spits. Next to them was the fiery stone oven that held the large pan with more lamb and potatoes, which filled the area with a wonderful aroma.

Of course the preparations had started days earlier – it would have been impossible to prepare so much food in one day. The incomparable Cretan hospitality at its peak.

Soon the limited guests began to arrive with their families – with their gifts, with their smiles, with their good wishes.

The joy of kinship and friendship was sprinkled on the tables loaded with food. Laughter, voices, joy was everywhere.

Nevertheless, the coronavirus was at the top of the list of topics discussed. The second issue was the situation in America and, of course, the tourism on which Crete depends financially.

No one was in a hurry to leave. This was helped by the fact that Monday was a national holiday – the second day of Easter – as well as the fact that observance of the May Day holiday was moved to Tuesday.

For those of us who live abroad, in America, such vacation luxuries are unheard of. After all, in the cultural, social, and religious mosaic environment of the United States, our celebrations usually do not coincide.

Something interesting, however, happens to us expatriates. When we are outside of Greece, we dream of spending these festive days in the homeland, but when we finally succeed in getting to Greece for the holidays, we think about … our holiday experiences in the Diaspora.

I saw photos of the Resurrection services on our website from various communities in New York and I found myself slightly jealous of the expatriates who were there.

I was thinking with nostalgia about the lamb on spits and celebrations we enjoyed in previous years with dear relatives and friends there.

These reminded me of a book by Theodore Saloutos, the leading scholar of Greek immigration to the United States.

Specifically, in the book titled “They Remember America,” he wrote about expatriates who lived in the U.S. for years before returning to Greece for their permanent residence.

As Saloutos describes it, “they lived nice, calm, quiet, relaxing times and were happy in Greece – but they remembered their adopted country. They missed America.”

I wish everyone ‘Xronia Polla’ with health and happiness!


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