Bring your appetite, dancing shoes, laughter, and smiles to the Fayetteville Greek Festival at Sts Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church on September 16, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and September 17, from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free.
Religion and food have a complex interaction. Food can be a bridge between the ancestors and spiritual forces. Religion and ethnicity are social markers for tradition.
Greek Orthodoxy can be defined as religious traditions grounded in the preservation of Greek identity. The Fayetteville Greek Festival is a celebration of Greek identity. The festival consists of feasting, dancing, music and food. Sharing food creates a feeling of attachment. Unity is experienced within the dance. Music is the experience of joy of being alive.
Purvi Raniga expresses the wisdom of the Fayetteville Greek Festival, “Festivals are there to teach us that life is a celebration, each festival teaches us to bring positivity, joy and happiness in our thoughts which reflect our lives.”
Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, the host of the Fayetteville Greek Festival, has a noteworthy regard for Saints Constantine and Helen.
Constantine was born to Helen and Constantius Chlorus in 272 A.D. His father died in 306 A.D. Constantine became Emperor of Rome in 324 A.D. He dreamed Jesus would empower him in battle. Jesus’ message stated, “by this sign you will conquer.” The sign was the Cross. Constantine changed the legion banners to Jesus Christ and the Cross. Constantine was victorious over his enemies in battle, and Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire.
Helen was humbly born. She married Constantius Chlorus, but he divorced Helen for political reasons. Constantine, as Emperor of the Roman Empire, granted Helen the imperial title of Augusta. She received the responsibility of finding the True Cross in Jerusalem.
She traveled to Jerusalem and aided in the establishment of churches on holy spaces. She provided financial assistance to impoverished persons. She has been revered for her efforts to find the True Cross. Her extended title is St. Helen, Mother of Emperor Constantine, Equal to the Apostles.
According to U.S. News & World Report, a team of twenty-five nationally recognized health professionals found the Mediterranean diet to be number one in the world. The foundation of the Greek diet represents fruits, feta cheese, vegetables, whole grains, fish, chicken and lean protein. The non-meat protein sources are beans and legumes. Olive oil is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. It has lower saturated fat than butter. This diet is supportive of reducing inflammation, chronic diseases, and to lower Body Mass Index.
Greek dishes have an antiquity aspect. Trakahana is one of the oldest foods in the Mediterranean. It was the mainstay diet for Greek and Roman foot soldiers during conquests. Olives and olive oil have been staples in the Greek diet for centuries. Olive trees are abundant on the Greek Islands.
The traditional ingredients in Greek cuisine are olives, olive oil, yogurt, honey, garlic, tomatoes, vegetables, Feta cheese, walnuts and spices. The spices are oregano, mint, fennel thyme, and lemon. The seafood options are small fish, octopus and shrimp.
Lean and red meats such as chicken, pork, veal, beef, lamb, rabbit and goat are used. Fruits are featured in salads with a range of apricots, figs, raisins, apples, dates, grapes, pomegranates, green olives and quince. Grains are a source of plant protein, barley, bulgur and wheat berries.
The food processes are varied as the ingredients, such as fried, breaded, sautéed, simmered, stewed, boiled, braised, baked, roasted grilled, pureed and preserved. The concise list of dishes prepared with these food processes are Moussaka, Tzatziko, Baklava, Stifado, Soutzoukalia, Pastitsio, Souvlakik, Tomatokeftedes, Koliokithokeftedes, Kleftiko and Fasolada.
The Fayetteville Greek Festival consists of feasting, food, music, and dancing. The dance is one of the ways to feel connection to the home country, ancestral roots, Greece. The common factor of music and dancing is the organization around rhythmic patterns. The Srytos and Kalamatiano, dances often seen at festivals and weddings, have identical steps. Srytos has 4/4 beats. Kalamatiano has 7/8 beats.
Srytos is an ancient chain dance with origins in Crete. It was described by Lucian 125-190 A.D. The rhythm is a slow three beat, quick two beat and quick two beat. The dancers are in a curving line, holding hands, and facing right. The lead dancer is on the right end of the line.
Kalamatiano has the variation of the lead dancer, and the second dancer holds either side of the handkerchief. The second dancer performs mesmerizing dance movements. The roots of this dance can be traced to Homer in the lliad.
There are depictions of three performances made around the spear of Achilles. Xenophon describes the dance when a woman leads a man to the dance with a handkerchief.
The musical accompaniment for Srytos and Kalamatiano are lycra, violin, outi, santouri, bouzouki, and bass guitars. The wind instruments are pipzia, cornermuse, clarinet, avlo, gaida, karmaoodza, zurn, and askamandoura. The percussion section instruments are daovli, bells, triangles, defi, krotata, kymbal.
Narendra Madi conveys the viewpoint, “our culture is our strength, be it music, dance, poetry, or anything, and these are very precious.”