Corpus Christi offers a big welcome to the Greek Festival

Church gets
authentic with
tribute to Greece

Anastasia TalarantasReporter

Corpus Christi residents can experience and even get a taste of another culture as the annual Greek Festival returns Nov. 7-9. The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, at 502 S. Chaparral St., opens its doors to the public to share its traditions, food, religion and, most importantly, dancing.

The Greek Festival gives the chance to showcase the church, built in 1950, but also to help keep it open financially.

“The membership over the past 60 years has grown so much, and now the public can be a part of us through the Greek Festival,” said Anastasia Livaditis, the dance teacher for the kids dancing group.

A lot of time and work is spent to keep this event going. Volunteers for the pastries meet twice a week, three months before the festival, to make the food and sweets.

“I have been in charge for making the dolmathes for almost two years now,” said Joann Talarantas, a church member and volunteer at Saint Nicholas. “We meet 3 times a week and we use 400 pounds of ground beef to make 8,000 grape leaves.” Dolmathes are ground beef with rice and seasoning, wrapped in a grape leaf.

The festival has several traditional food and dessert options to try — from Mbaklava, Gyros, Loukoumathes and Greek Coffee — and all are hand made. Loukoumathes are Greek donuts, with seasoning and honey on top, fried.

“I have been volunteering for many years, and every year I look forward to seeing it all come together,” Talarantas said.

Everyone who is a part of the church helps in his or her own way, either in the dancing or food department. The dancers are all volunteers and practice every year to prepare and showcase what they have learned about their heritage.

“I like to teach because I like to dance, and I’d like for the kids to learn our traditions and dances the right way,” Livaditis said.

The costumes are all from the island of Spoa, Karpathos, an island in Greece that most of the families from the church hail from. The boys wear a “vraka,” which is a white skirt with lots of layers, a white shirt, and a knitted vest with a fisherman’s hat. The girls wear a “sakofoustano,” which is a skirt and shirt with lots of detail on it made from scratch. The most beautiful detail about the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is that you don’t have to be Greek to be a member or to help with the festival. Many church members are Russian and Arabic, and every Sunday they come together.

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