Sunday, March 30, 2008

Greek Independence Day Parade

The Greek Independence Day Parade wound a colourful way through the streets of San Francisco on Saturday. It marked the 187th anniversary of the freedom of the Greeks from Turkish Ottoman rule and celebrated the rich Grecian culture.

The parade showcased dancers in traditional costume, the Olympic Games, the Greek Orthodox Church, Hellenic schools and youth groups from the Bay Area and Hellenic and Cretan associations.

In honour of the forthcoming Olympic Games in China, there was special inclusion of an enchanting children’s troupe of ribbon and fan dancer
s from the city and an Olympic float that had made its debut in the Chinese New Year parade.

Firefighters were there in one of their engines, Naval officers, a vintage fire engine was playfully driven around, and the Consul General of Greece and other civic dignitaries rode in vintage and open-top cars

‘It is very important to demonstrate our culture for the San Franciscan community who are very much polyethnic and to remind our children of the customs and culture,’ said one of the organizers.

The parade ended at the Civic Centre where Greek, Cretan and fan dances were performed in front of a stage that had been set up. However, crowd numbers were low with just a few hundred people and
Metropolitan Gerasimos, leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, challenged the Greek community.

‘I know that we can do much better,’ he said, adding, ‘We as Orthodox Greeks and Hellenes will need to become much more aware of our faith and our culture.’

A benefactor of the parade whose family tree links him with the original 1821 uprising against the Turks, was presented with a copy of a letter written by his ancestor.

In the letter were the words ‘What good is life without freedom…God gave us minds, hands and wisdom…God is with us…we either liberate ourselves or we all die.’

Receiving the letter was George Marcus, one of the Regents of the University of California, who thanked people for his gift and said that those words could ring true for other courageous uprisings including the American Revolution.

A Greek American lady in the crowd said that what she liked of the day was ‘seeing different Greek customs, seeing them dance, seeing different organizations. It is good to support our culture,’ she said. She explained that Greeks arriving in the Bay Area had set up associations that reflected their original counties in Greece.

The parade was inaugurated in San Francisco in the 1950s and but for a pause in the 1970s is an annual event.

Click for pics. Click to enlarge.

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