Eat, Drink, Dance and Be Merry

The Greek Festival of Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church hosted by Father Kosmas Karavellas is an annual community tradition. Behind the scenes are generations of Greek traditions. As a former Greek dancer, I can tell you the story.
    Months before their costumes are fitted, Greek dance groups fill any unoccupied room in the gilded church with traditional music for weekly practices that run late into the night.
    “Dancing is a great way to interact with everyone, Greek or not,” says Konstantinos Nakas, 16, who began dancing 10 years ago and now dances with other high school students as part of the Senior Aegean Odyssey Dancers.
    “These traditional dances let us connect with people, from my family — with whom I dance these same dances — to non-Greeks who join us at the end of our sets to dance the Kalamatiano,” Nakas continued.
    Dancers rely on each other to stay in time with the beat of the same songs their parents and grandparents danced to while young.
    These practices connected me to Greek grandparents I never knew and the traditions of the village I never visited.
    Niko Kokkinos, the senior group’s dance instructor for the past 11 years, says sharing traditional Greek dances is a source of pride.
    “Greek dance is one of the biggest aspects of our culture because it’s for happy and sad times. Each region has its specific dances, but the feelings are universal,” Kokkinos says.
    Along with dancers, other Greek contributors are prepping after hours.
    Behind the empty dining room where dancers study steps, volunteers in the kitchen dice eggplant for moussaka and mix batter for the must-have loukoumades, a fried dough delicacy, soaked in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon.
    The cooking, showcasing unique family and regional recipes, begins in March.
    “I encourage everyone to incorporate their traditions so, for example, our lamb gyro is made by a Cypriot, which means he makes it their way by wrapping the meat with a potato and a bay leaf,” says Jasmin Haralambatos, festival coordinator for almost a decade and wife of kitchen manager Demetrios Haralambatos, who has held his position as long.
    “We work hard to keep our Greek heritage thriving,” she says. “We support our church so our children have a place to connect with their heritage while expanding the community that is so important to Greeks.”
    Each contributor has more traditions for you to discover during your odyssey through the Annapolis Greek Festival.
    The festival opens Thursday, June 2 from 4 to 10pm and continues Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4 from 11am to 11pm, while Sunday hours are 11am to 7pm
    Admission and parking are free. Overflow parking at Annapolis High School with a free shuttle to the church:; 410-573-2072.