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An International Day Profile

Picture a young girl about seven years old. She is at a festival that is blossoming with people and brimming with life. It is crowded and naturally, being the young age that she is, this girl is precariously small. It’s overwhelming, but the large celebration provides a sense of comfort. There are people laughing, singing, dancing, and she feels the itch to join in with the crowd. She wants to be a part of the camaraderie and pride for her heritage, so she enters the fray of culture and song, and feels the warm sensation of belonging as she celebrates herself and her history. This is a memory that Despina Evangelopoulos recalls of a festival held by her church when she was younger. Despina is a member of the 277 Class and the Greek Orthodox Church. She is an industrious student who is proud of her heritage and enjoys honoring the Greek tradition.

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.”

Dylan Lewis 277
Staff Writer 

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