Students experience new cuisine and dances

By Jessica Ganga
Nation & World Editor

The Brower Student Center was adorned with blue and white on Wednesday, March 25, in celebration of the third-annual Greek Festival hosted by the College’s Hellenic Society.

Students lined up to enjoy the traditional and authentic Greek food that was served by members of the organization. While familiar dishes such as pita bread with tzatziki sauce were served, the night was also an opportunity for students of the College to try new foods they may not have heard of before. Spanakopita, a Greek casserole with crusty dough filled with spinach and feta pastitsio, impressed the student foodies. And f-or dessert, students were treated to savory baklava, a sweet pastry with walnuts, honey and kourambiethes, and a shortbread cookie with powdered sugar.

Serving food to the students was a special way for the members of the Hellenic Society to share a piece of their culture with their peers.

“Not only are we exposing you to pastitsio and mousaka and spanakopita,” senior nursing major Daniela Verdugo began. “We are giving you a piece of us,” added Anna Kalavrezos, senior nursing major and President of the Hellenic Society.

 Verdugo explained how a family -owned store, The Greek Store, in Kenilworth, N.J., that has been in business for over 50 years, made the food specially for the festival.

Students try a buffet of authentic Greek dishes such as spanakopita. (Photo courtesy of Brendan McGeehan)
Students try a buffet of authentic Greek dishes such as spanakopita. (Photo courtesy of Brendan McGeehan)

It was not just a night to celebrate and enjoy the delicious food, but a night that was special to those of Greek culture. Wednesday marked Greece’s Independence Day, a day that commemorates the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821.

“(I’m) excited to celebrate the Greek culture that’s important for Greek history,” Kalavrezos said about having the festival on the Greek holiday. “And it’s nice to show our pride.”

In Greece, the holiday is celebrated in towns and villages throughout the country, with schools holding a parade where school children march in traditional Greek costume and carry Greek flags. The country’s capital, Athens, celebrates by having an annual military parade every year where thousands of people line the streets of the city to show their pride.

The Hellenic Society celebrates the festival around the same time each year to coincide with the Greek holiday, allowing them all to celebrate the day together.

“Being able to be a part of the Hellenic Society, it’s good to be part of an organization where you can share a common culture with your peers,” junior marketing major Agy Serghiou said.

The students were not only happy to be celebrating the holiday together as an organization, but with the other students of the College.

“The Greek culture is all about welcoming other people into the culture, and we just really wanted to introduce it to everyone and to let everyone know about Greek history,” Kalavrezos said.

At the end of the festival, the Hellenic Greek Dancers of New Jersey, who were dressed in traditional Greek costume, entertained students. The dancers entered the middle of the Brower Student Center to the sound of Greek music holding hands, eventually making their way into a circle.

People clapped along with the music as the men of the group jumped, leaped and kicked in the air. The men could be heard throughout the eight different dances yelling “hey” and “opa.”

One dance had a male performer dance while balancing a shot glass on his head, impressing the on-looking audience, as the glass stayed securely on his head as he got lower to the floor.

Like the food, dancing is an important and prominent part of the Greek culture and means a lot to the people who participate in the dances.

One of the members of the Hellenic Society, freshman fine arts major Melina Magriples, has been a member of the dance group for six years and is “extremely passionate” about Greek dancing.

“There is something called ‘kefi’ in Greek dance,” Magriples said. “There is not an exact definition for it, but it means something along the lines of passion. It is such an extreme feeling that I have difficulty putting into words. It is the feeling I get when dancing and knowing that I am sharing my heritage with the people around me. The ‘kefi’ I feel when dancing is my favorite part.”

The night ended with everyone who shared food and watched the dance performances together feeling the same “kefi” that the members of the Hellenic Society feel about their own culture.