Ceremonies take place all over the world. Ceremonies are defined as an act or set of formal acts established by custom authority as proper to a special occasion” (Webster’s New World Dictionary third college edition, 229). In this case, the “proper” occasion was the reunion of villagers which lead to a celebration. Celebrations are related with food for it is “establishes relationships of give and take, of co-operation, of a sharing, of an emotional bond that is universal” (Haviland, 43)
The celebration in the village was among families and relatives, who have come from the village. All of the people gathered at the reunion were related to one another either by kinship or by friendship. They all were there for a reason, to celebrate the sixth reunion, and these celebrations take place every three years. Over the summer I had the opportunity to take part in this tradition in a rural Greek village. My grandparents raised my father, his brother, and his sister in that village.
It is located in Peloponnisos, which is located in the southern part of the Greek mainland. The village is called Levidi. I interviewed my grandparents and they told me that the reason why they left the village was because they wanted a better life for their children. They left in the year 1972 by airplane when my father was fifteen years old. I also interviewed my father and he told me that he was very excited to change environments. In Chicago, he went to a public school and also had to work. It was a “hard life” he says but he worked hard and did the best he could.
As I observed my surroundings Last summer in Levidi all I could see were older women and men sitting at cafeterias in the square and children playing in the parks located by the village’s main church. It was the seventeenth of August, 2001. The town was never as busy as this time of year. Now is when all the families that have grown up in this village get together and celebrate. This celebration happens every three years and is usually in mid-August. The event lasts for about one week and every night there was a special kind of entertainment for the townspeople. The mayor, Mr.
Kavourinos gave a few speeches as well as other political members. They spoke of how the village had progressed in the last years and what future plans will be made. From my point of view, this speech was a persuasive technique that the mayor used in order to convince the people to live there or at least come back next year. The night continued with more speeches from the secretary, and some other politicians. These authority figures informed the people about the recent renovations in the village. The City Hall had just been remodeled as well as a new cultural center, which I will describe later.
The next morning, Saturday, there was a special church service. I went there with all of my family. This service was special to the people there because it was a ceremony to remember the men in the village that had died in war. Their names were written on a monumental tomb. The ceremony continued and the priest’s, the mayor’s, and the political member’s names were called and they each placed and olive wreath in front of the tomb. After this was finished there was a minute of silence in remembrance of these patriots. Dieing for one’s country is very important.
They had fought in wars and believed in what they were fighting for. My great grandfather (from my grandmother’s side) died in a war and it was very emotional for my father and my grandfather. The audience seemed somewhat sad as they remembered the hard times that the village went through during the war. Next, the mayor led all the people to the front of an old house that had been remodeled recently. A family who lived there owned the house in the early 1900’s. It was transformed into a cultural center and had just opened recently for the people to observe.
The house was quite small, so it was difficult for all of the people to go in all at once. In the house there was a display of the old kitchenware used, the clothes they wore, and the quilts that the women living in the village during that time period had made. Everyone was very amused by the artifacts that were on display. They learned a lot about the way that their ancestors lived a long time ago. That same night was the major event of the reunion. As mid-day came, the smell of roasting wild pig was spreading everywhere in the village.
The five taverns that surrounded the square were open from the early hours preparing the meat to grill for the celebration. The reason why they eat wild pig is because first of all it is very difficult to hunt this animal and it shows manhood. Also, wild pig is considered to be very healthy and a delicacie. At about 9 o’clock in the evening everyone started arriving in the square. All the roads surrounding the square were closed and everyone had to walk at least a block or two to get to the square. The streets were filled with parked cars and motorbikes at every angle of the sidewalk.
This day was the “real” celebration. It was very special for all the older generation that grew up in this village. My father’s parents left the village when my grandmother was thirty-seven and my grandfather was forty-seven, because, as I said, they wanted a better life for their children It was difficult, but they had no choice. They moved to Chicago, Illinois and lived there ever since. The reason why they moved to Chicago was because other members of the family moved there as well. So they went there because they knew that they could have some support.
Everybody was dressed up very nicely. All the women where in nice suits or skirts and all the men where wearing ties. The children were at their best behavior, but as it started getting late the children starting getting tired, wanting to go home. Many were asleep in the strollers and in the arms of their mothers, but still the celebration didn’t stop. Everywhere there were groups of people smiling at each other and talking. The men were wandering around looking for familiar faces and women walking in circles around the square.
Everyone was talking about someone that they saw after so many years. It was not gossip in a mean way; it was actually an exchange of information about other people in the village. That Saturday, I remember my grandfather calling me up to come to the square and especially to ask us what we were going to wear and to make sure that we all looked nice. By what we were wearing he demonstrated his social status. It was obvious that he wanted to show his friends that now he is successful and in a way, I, as his granddaughter, represent his accomplishments in life.
With all his hard work in America and all his efforts in the restaurant business, he wanted to show all his friends what he has become. This is how it was for every man and woman who grew up in this village. My grandfather and grandmother constantly introduced me to their friends and relatives from the village. I felt like the end product of their accomplishments, through me and my brothers and cousins the other villagers saw that my grandparents succeeded in America and how strong a family they have. The night continued and speeches from the mayor and President of the village spoke about the towns major events throughout history.
There was also entertainment provided, a live band playing traditional Greek songs. These songs were songs that were popular when my grandparents lived in the village, and reminded all the older generation that their era has not been forgotten. The night went on the live band got louder and louder, as people were slowly finishing their food, tables were being pushed aside for room to dance. In a very short time, all the children rushed out into the dance floor and started to play. The adults then stood up and joined hand in hand in traditional Greek dances.
This celebration continued till about three o’clock in the morning. So many things have changed since my grandparents lived in Levidi. Their lifestyle had become more complex in America, but also easier. In Chicago, my grandfather with my father and my uncle own restaurants. They make money easier and are completely content with their decision of leaving the village, and they enjoy going back at least once a year. In conclusion, ceremonies bring people closer together. They dance hand in hand, eat side by side and drink to each other’s health.