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Celebration of the Greeks

Which came first – the Roman Catholic Church or the Greek Orthodox?Greek Festival

I learned a lot more about the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Asheville, North Carolina when I spent some time at the Greek Festival, held each September on the church grounds in the historic Montford Neighborhood.

I listened to Nick Demos and the Greek Islanders playing authentic Greek music, wandered through the marketplace, watched Greek dancing, and marveled at a myriad of cultural demonstrations.

Before we ate, my wife and I decided to take the church tour, and we were impressed and inspired by the architecture and aesthetics. A priest greeted us in the foyer, an area, which he said represented our earthly experience. He then led us through the building and discussed the symbolism and the theological basis of each. We especially enjoyed information he shared on iconography and much of he artwork on display.

It was during the tour that we learned about the split between the Greek and Roman churches centuries ago. It seems that, in 1054, the Greek Orthodox denied that the Pope had any unique authority over them, so Pope Leo IX and Eastern Patriarch Michael I excommunicated each other. Politics as usual.

What would a Greek “Panagen” or “festival” be without food? Lots of great food was plentiful and easy to find. There was a cafeteria style “a la carte” dining area inside the Hellenic building where a long line of visitors also purchased Greek pastries.

The crowds must haves been huge. By the time we arrived on Sunday afternoon, they had sold out of moussaka and baklava.  A Gyro Tent and a soft drink tent were situated near the common pavilion where the dancing and music were located.

My wife and I got an assortment of spanakopita, a pork tenderloin on a stick stuffed with grapes, and potato salad, which we ate in the tent that also housed the “Kafenion” (coffee house) and beer tavern. We enjoyed it completely. No leftovers to take home.

We did leave with a better appreciation for another aspect of Christianity, inspiration from the pastor, and an enthusiastic anticipation of next year’s festival. Oh! And I enjoyed some homemade ice cream on the way back to the car.


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