Getting ready for the Greek Festival
This week at Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, the first of hundreds of cookies were being prepared in anticipation of the church’s annual Greek Festival. It will be held this year on June 1 and 2, the first time at the church since the Byzantine-style church was constructed on Highway 751 in 2009.
The festival started in the mid-1990s and grew out of an annual pastries sale, which the church has in the fall. It was first held at the old church on Watts Street, then at East Chapel Hill High School.
“This year, we’re coming home. We love our new church. It’s lovely,” said longtime member Joan Marinos. Marinos was dipping finikia cookies into honey in the church kitchen on Tuesday afternoon.
Her mother-in-law taught her how to cook Greek food. When Marinos and her husband moved to Durham in 1968, they started going to St. Barbara.
“I pretty much zeroed in on the pastries. I enjoy baking,” Marinos said. “This particular cookie, finikia, the ladies in church showed me how to make them, freeze them, thaw and dip in honey. It’s an easy thing to do, but a long process.”
Based on what they sold last year, Marinos and her helpers will have made about 500 finikia cookies. Pastries for sale at the festival will also include baklava, flogeres, kourambiethes and paximathia. Marinos is also making kourambiedes, with 400 done so far and 200 to go for the cookies covered in powdered sugar. Cookies will be sold individually or assortment boxes.
The morning of the festival is exciting, she said, as they set up and get ready to see everybody. Marinos is a retired first-grade teacher at Forest View Elementary School, and sometimes sees her former students. “I retired and got into the pastry business,” she said.
Small groups of church members have come together to make the pastries.
“I’ve really enjoyed the small groups because I like the Christian fellowship. I enjoy that,” Marinos said.
Along with pastries, the festival will feature a bakaliko – a Greek grocery of bread, olives, honey and items used in Greek recipes. Helen Paliouras will bake her braided holiday bread, tsoureki, which sells out. Also for sale will be the church cookbook, which Marinos co-edited, called “The Grecian Plate.” First published in 1984, it is in its 11th printing. Other food on the menu includes baklava ice cream sundaes, rizogalo (rice pudding) and spanakopita.
For entertainment, a DJ will play Greek music, and a Hellenic group and youth group will dance traditional Greek dances. There will be a bookstore of religious materials and icons, Greek watercolor artist Pantelis Zografos and tours of the church. Other food includes grilled chicken and pork souvlaki sandwiches and gyro sandwiches.
In celebration of the Greek Festival being held on site at the church, a lamb will be cooked all day on a spit both days of the festival, said member Maria Frangakis, a co-chair of the festival.
“It is a very traditional Greek festivity for special occasions,” Frangakis said. The lamb should be ready to be served around 5:30 p.m. “It’s a cause for celebration we’re back in our church where we belong. We want people to remember it,” she said.
Frangakis noted that she and Marinos are Greek Orthodox by marriage.
“This culture grabs a hold of people. It’s so rich, not only the culture but the religion,” Frangakis said. “Those from outside are here forever, and devoted and appreciate it more.”
She has also been cooking in preparation for the festival. Because they are a small community, so much goes into it, she said.
“It’s the sense of community, more than food. It’s a labor of love,” Frangakis said. “It’s like being back in a small town. You open your doors to your neighbors and enjoy it together.”
WHAT: St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church’s annual Greek Festival
WHEN: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. June 1 and 2
WHERE: St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
8306 Highway 751, Durham
INFORMATION: 919-484-1600, StBarbaraFestNC@gmail.com or www.stbarbarachurchnc.org. Admission is free. Festival held rain or shine.