Greek communities celebrating Christmas across the USA
Across the country Greek communities celebrated Christmas with festive events and traditional kalanta. From Long Island to Hawaii, the Orthodox Christians shared their Christmas celebrations with The National Herald and continue to remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season.
Little Rock’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Four hundred families attend Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock where the community celebrated it centennial in 2013. Presiding priest Reverend Dr. Nicholas Verdaris celebrates his 20th anniversary at Annunciation on January 1.
Annunciation’s Sunday lunch was held on December 23 in the church hall where the children of the Greek school sang the Greek Christmas carols as well as festive songs.
Greek-American Eva Sargent, a member of the Annunciation community told TNH, the church brings together many nationalities, not just Greeks, “We have many foreigners who are Orthodox coming to church besides Greeks… from Jerusalem, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Russia, Ethiopia. The Greeks are not as many as before, but we are trying to keep the traditions.”
Honolulu’s Sts. Constantine and Helen
HONOLULU, HI – Father Alexander Leong, although he is the presiding priest of Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral of the Pacific in Honolulu since 2013, does not speak much Greek.
As he told TNH, in recent years the church has gained members of various nationalities, “Our church started operating in 1965 and has 20 families. Here, the parishioners are from Ukraine, Romania, and Asian countries.”
The Greek school of the parish organized a small celebration and the children sang Christmas carols. On December 21, a fundraiser was held by the Philoptochos for women who have been the victims of domestic violence.
For Christmas day, the Philoptochos is hosting a special brunch for the members of the church.
Island Park’s Kimisis tis Theotokou-Panaghia
ISLAND PARK, NY – The Kimisis Tis Theotokou-Panaghia Greek Orthodox Church in Island Park is a relatively new church, celebrating its 37th anniversary this year. Built in 1981, the church was named in honor of the Virgin Mary because in an area Greek Orthodox home in 1960 there was a tearing icon of the Panaghia, as Georgia Papathanasiou, principal of the Greek School, and former president of Philoptochos, told TNH.
“Everyone knows our church as Panaghia of Island Park because of what happened here in the past,” she said.
The priest is Fr. John Paizis, who grew up at the Church of the Three Hierarchs in Brooklyn, NY.
On December 16, the children of the Greek school sang the traditional Greek carols while Santa Claus gave them gifts.
The Philoptochos of the parish makes and sells home-made sweets and vasilopites and the proceeds go to charity.
“On January 6th, the Philoptochos will host the annual cutting of the vasilopita and breakfast. The proceeds will go to St. Basil Academy,” Papathanasiou told TNH.
Salt Lake City’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Salt Lake City has been in existence since 1905 and lists about 700 Greek families, Father George Nikas told TNH.
“We are trying to keep Hellenism alive. A decade ago there were 1,200 families in this parish,” he said.
The community organized many Christmas events. Among them is the well-established Greek School celebration, with 80 children, as well as a Christmas concert from the choirs of the church.
The members of the Philoptochos made homemade festive sweets which will be available for sale at the parish on Christmas Day.
The community also had a “Sub for Santa Angel Tree,” which Fr. Nikas explained to TNH. “There are cards attached to the branches, each person selects a card which might say, ‘sweatshirt’ or ‘a pair of shoes.’ Everyone buys everything they can and gives them to the Philoptochos. From there, they go to families in need.”
As in every year, the Philoptochos also organizes a “Fashion Show” and a dinner at a hotel in the area with all ages participating.
Broomall’s St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church
BROOMALL, PA – St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall, PA presented its annual Christmas Pageant on December 23 immediately following the Divine Liturgy with 80 children participating in the festive production. Rev. Father Christ Kontos, Protopresbyter of the community, was among those present for the impressive performance.