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Friday, September 17, 2004

They Can Tell We're Not Greek ... 

... and not just because I sometimes put the emphasis on the wrong syllable when asking for some σπανακόπιτα.

Celeste went to her first Greek festival today. We figured it'd be an easy outing if we went during the afternoon, instead of trying to deal with the evening or weekend madness, and it turned out pretty good. We had a nice bit of nosh, brought home some pastries, and got to show off the baby.

It was showing off the baby that tipped off our ethnicity (or at least our being non-Greek).

The festival was at the Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in D.C. (making this Celeste's first out-of-state trip, too). After a late lunch of spanakopita (σπανακόπιτα), tiropita (τυρόπιτα), and fasolakia (φασολάκια φρέσκα με ντομάτα), we headed into the fellowship hall of the church, which was set up as The Plaka. In addition to Greek books, CDs, packaged foods, and icons, this is where they had the pastries.

As we entered the hall, we were stopped at the raffle booth; the woman staffing it wanted to see the baby. The older man next to her made a little blessing over the baby and then spat. He then asked how old the baby was; when I said she was 13 days old, he said, "So I guess you're not Greek."

Apparently, the Greek custom is to keep the baby inside for the first 40 days. After which, his or her first trip is to the church for a formal presentation to the community.

The blessing and spitting, he said, were to ward off the evil eye. "Not that I believe in that," he said, but, 40 years ago, his sister had had the evil eye put on her in Greece and it had plagued her ever since, so he figured a little protection wouldn't hurt.

That makes two blessings Celeste has received so far. The morning after Celeste was born, a Roman Catholic priest stopped by to visit the woman Evelin was sharing the post-partum room with and to bless her baby. He asked if Evelin and Celeste wanted to join in, as Evelin said yes.

After chatting for a while, we moved on to the pastry stand and picked up an assortment of goodies to take home — some baklava (mπακλαβάς) and a piece each of galactobouriko (γαλακτομπούρεκο), melomakarona (μελομακάρονα), kourambiedes (κουραμπιέδες) and karithopita (καρυδόπιτα).

Blogger Commenting:
Ahhhh. So that explains the reaction I also received at the greek fest. It was over 40 days, but clearly, it was not appropriate for me to have such a young child like that "out".

Good for you guys!!
 
Well, it wasn't like we were unwelcome with the baby, it just singled us out for conversation (and in one case, possible conversion ...)
 
I walked into a Greek place one day and ordered spanakopita. The little old Greek lady sized me up and said, "Are you Greek?" Now, I have a long line of people asking me if I'm some completely inappropriate ethnicity -- inappropriate because no one who has even one working eyeball could ever actually think I'm Greek or Israeli or Georgian or Urgyar or Kurdish*, yet I've been asked ALL of those. So, of course, I goggled at the woman and said something incredibly witty and intelligent like, "Huh ha ha ha ha... uh... no?" and looked for the Candid Cameras. But she said my pronunciation was impeccable. Only problem is, I have no clue how I said it, so I can't think, "Cool, I can pronounce spanakopita like a real Greek,". It was a convergence of luck and hunger.

I won't even TRY to say tiropitakia.

Soak up all the folk blessings you can get. At the least, they make good stories.

* By a Kurd, no less. Ok, I was dressed like a Kurd at the time, but still!
 
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