“We have been invited to my very good friend Lia’s grandchild’s baptism; you ok with going?” my Fiancée enquired. “Sure” I replied, knowing that if my Woman wanted to go along to the service, then so did I. Bearing in mind that where my Woman is, there I wish to be, because not only do I love her, but I love her company, always.
Saturday came and we arrived at the Greek Orthodox Church. I had never been to a Greek Orthodox Church before, but it appeared very similar to the Roman Catholic Church of which I was a member for many years.
As my Fiancée and I stood outside the church, waiting for the previous service to come to an end and people were gathering, ready to move into the church, I became aware of the strong presence of families. There were older folks, younger folks and a great number of children.
Unlike most traditional church meetings I have attended over the years, especially those in the Catholic Church, people were intermingling as if they were all part of one family. Children were freely running around, variously playing or being lifted up and hugged by fathers and mothers alike.
As the previous service came to an end we, gathered on the outside, moved into the church as one.
It was so interesting; once the church filled, the service begun with no real fanfare, apart from our little Antheia who was not only celebrating her baptism, but also her first birthday. Antheia was distraught, the Priest with his robes and headgear, chanting words, variously Greek and English, her Godmother affirming her membership to the church, on her behalf, whilst Antheia screamed without ceasing, in her protest.
The service ended and once returned to her mother, Antheia was consoled. But, as I later discovered, the best was yet to come!
The festivity of Antheia’s baptism was held at an old established university campus, in a restaurant that befitted a five star hotel.
Not only have I never attended a service in a Greek Orthodox Church, but I have never attended a Greek celebration gathering of any kind; clearly I was in for a very special surprise.
At most services and celebrations I have attended, people all sit together in their groups and very little meaningful mixing with others outside of their own circle takes place. I think this is referred to as an, ‘orderly gathering’ in my culture.
Here was a brand new experience for me.
On our arrival, my Fiancée and I looked up our names on the location board at the entrance to the entertainment area. We found a ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ bearing my surname and because neither of our first names were anywhere to be found on the list, we smiled at each other, accepting that our hosts had declared us ‘married’ and we proceeded to our table as a happy ‘husband and wife’.
Our seating position was such that we could see most of the other tables and also enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the goings on, staged before us.
At a glance it appeared that the guests were ninety percent of Greek origin and consisted of family groups, old and young. The guests were to a person – passionate. Talking, greeting, eating and drinking were all done with easy flowing but expressive feeling.
There was constant movement of life; A young male Greek singer almost invisibly moved between the many tables (accommodating some 200 guests), singing Greek ballades. Friends and families greeting one another; children laughing, dancing among the adults as traditional music, provided by three guitarists flowed like a fillip through the room.
The star of the show, Antheia, was feted as she was carried around the gathering, in the arms of family members and friends and was clearly delighted by all the attention and rhythmic music, to which she moved her little body in up and down movements.
In no time at all, real quality wines were being served to guests who had survived the service and the drive from church to reception. These were accompanied by some of the most interesting and tasty snacks my Fiancée and I had ever tasted.
We were graced by the company of the Priest and his curate, at our table. I thought we might be battling our way through sign language in trying to understand one another; but, to my amazement, discovered that our Priest was none other than an Afrikaans South African, who had no roots to being Greek other than his love of the people, the language and the church.
The folks catering for this wonderful gathering, moved effortlessly and very attentively among the guests, so that all were kept well cared for, whilst guests talked, laughed and danced.
My Fiancée said that she wondered how her special friend and grandmother (or ‘Yia-yia’, pronounced ‘ya-ya to be more correct) of Antheia, Lia, managed to move among all the guests so gracefully and make each feel special.
The main serving was buffet, with a range of traditional Greek delights that would have satisfied even the most particular of guests. Initially, the queue to the buffet was long, but it moved seamlessly and as guests stood awaiting their turn, new brief encounters were experienced among them.
Maybe you saw the movie/s of, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, I recall that I loved every moment of their footage, because it was, to me, how people should behave toward one another in this life. This celebration of Antheia’s baptism pictured that very same spirit to me.
In this spirit we should live our brief stay on this planet with love, passion and care of our fellow humans.
My Fiancée and I felt like we had left a very special world on our departure for home; it looked as if, as the saying goes, “The party had only just begun” and we never had our question answered, ‘Would there be throwing of plates?’
I can only imagine that after we had left, plates were thrown to the loud shouts of ‘Opa, Opa’!
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