Despina visits Greece every summer, where she spends time with family and friends. She was born in Thessalonik; the capital of Greek Macedonia that has great weather and a population of over 385,000. Her parents came to America in search of work and along with them came a very young Despina and her two brothers. At home Despina only speaks Greek, not only because it is her native tongue, but also because her parents do not speak much English.
The effervescent fourteen-year-old balances going to Greek school with the rigorous academics of Central. Greek School consists of Greek history, mythology, how to read and write in Greek and folk dancing; it may sound fun, but it still requires homework and projects. Despina manages going to two schools, but on top of that she does several extra-curriculars activities, for example she is in three Greek dancing groups and several clubs at Central. When Despina dances there is not only one type of dance that she does. The dancing depends on the region in Greece where it originates, as different traditions formed in various areas. Needless to say, the art of Greek folk dancing is not just saying, “Opa!” which is often associated with Greek festivities.
Although traditions differ greatly from city to city, there are holidays that are widespread and very similar to the ones that we celebrate in the United States. For example, Oxi Day celebrates Greek’s triumph over the Turks “oxi” means “no” in Greek, and symbolizes how the Greeks refused to be slaves for the Turkish people. The Oxi Day celebration of independence resembles our Fourth of July. They also have Greek Easter, which is a very important holiday that is sometimes seen to be even more important than Christmas.
Despina feels that it is absolutely vital to stick to tradition. She said, “I recently told my mom, I want her to correct me every time I start speaking English to her because I’m sort of forgetting my Greek language a little bit. I’m fluent, but there are some words that I still don’t know. I think it’s important [to continue speaking Greek and following tradition] because being bilingual and having another nationality is really cool.”
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