Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Greek Summer Night

Today is the first day of summer. The days are long and here in Belgium the weather is (mostly) warm and (mostly) sunny. The school year is winding down and the festival season is gearing up. It seems as though someone is celebrating something every week with some weeks having multiple celebrations. The festivities are not limited to the Belgian community; right on SHAPE the big "festival tent" has gone up with each of the NATO countries taking their turn in hosting cultural events. And last week, to kick off the official start of summer, it was the Greek community's turn.

I've mentioned before that I love all things Italian but Greece and Greek culture comes in a close second for me so I was excited at the prospect of attending a Greek cultural event right here in Belgium. Our house back in Norfolk, Virginia was less than a mile away from a Greek Orthodox Church that annually hosted one of the largest Greek festivals on the East Coast. Each year we would sit on the church lawn with friends and eat spanikopita, gyro and salads, drink too much red wine and listen to traditional music. The event was something we looked forward to each year. Last year in Albania we celebrated Greek National Day with the Greek Embassy at a concert and dance performance that highlighted the best of the traditional Greek arts scene. As a family we made two separate trips to Greece, first to the Ionian Islands surrounding Corfu and then to the monasteries of Meteora. Along the way we heard traditional music, took in the spectacular sights and dined on delicious Greek food. Much of it wasn't fancy but it was all delicious and left me wanting more. I returned from each trip and immediately took to the kitchen to try to replicate what I had eaten.

So yes, I was excited at the prospect of experiencing more of Greece and this celebration did not disappoint. It was truly a festive occasion as we joined Glenn's co-workers at a long table under the tent. Musicians performed a live performance in front of a large screen where images from across Greece were displayed. Sidney immediately recognized a few of the scenes from our own travels before being distracted by some of his classmates. And the food. Oh my goodness was it good. In fact, it was some of the best Greek food I have ever eaten. Even Sidney gobbled it down . It was so good that Glenn made a second trip through the long food line to secure us additional food. We probably ate too much but it was so nice to eat great food, listen to nice music (at a very respectable volume) and spend time with friends. In between bites of food Sidney danced along to the music and played with his classmates. This was such a family friendly event and this was evidenced by the number of families of all nationalities who were eating, dancing and celebrating. It was the perfect way to kick off the summer.

I am thankful that we are living in such a multi-cultural community. In recent weeks we've celebrated with the French, Spanish, Polish and now Greeks. I can't wait to see what the rest of this long (and hopefully sunny) summer holds in store for us.

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