Okay, I’ll say it. Your parents have probably been lying to you.
No, I’m not talking about the Santa-isn’t-real betrayal or that “drinking coffee stunts your growth” myth they probably fed you as a child.
I’m talking about the lies they might have pressured you with about dating, relationships, and marriage, specifically emphasizing the importance of ending up with someone from your same culture.
These ideals are particularly indicative of households where both parents are from the same culture, socialize primarily within that culture, and, in some cases, are born or raised in the country where the culture originates or is fairly prominent.
As the only daughter of two super traditional Greek parents (one a native Greek, the other non-native), this has been my life for the past twenty years.
Just like Toula Portokalos (played by Nia Vardalos) from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, my parents have been nudging me to marry a Greek guy. Since day one, my old-fashioned, Greek immigrant dad has warned me to keep away from all of the Ian Miller types out there by labeling anyone who isn’t Greek a “xeno” (ksEH-no), a word that originates from the Greek word xenos (ξένος in Greek lettering) meaning “stranger” or “foreigner”.
Despite their efforts, I have never dated a Greek guy, nor will I ever.
Greek men are typically strong-willed, boisterous, stubborn, and a bit narcissistic. They’re also charming, romantic, and spontaneous. I realized I couldn’t date/marry a Greek man because I basically just described myself (kidding, kind of).
All jokes aside, the real reason why is because I love xenos: I love talking to them, befriending them, and sometimes (gasp) dating them. Learning about different cultures has always fascinated me, and in the same respect, people seem to be enchanted by me when I talk about my Greek heritage.
We are so accustomed to our own cultures that what may seem normal to us could be a completely new concept or practice to someone else! This statement is especially applicable to holidays.
My family and I jokingly refer to yesterday as “American Easter” to differentiate between Western/Catholic Easter and our Eastern/Orthodox Christian Easter, which typically fall on different days due to the Catholic and Orthodox churches following different calendars (this year they are a month apart).
Yesterday, I experienced my first full-fledged American Easter with my boyfriend and his family and, needless to say, I was pretty excited to learn how he and his family celebrates, but when I arrived, I felt kind of shy and uncomfortable.
When you’re accustomed to family gatherings entailing a house full of extremely noisy, bantering Greeks, a relaxed Easter gathering is a bit of a shock. I was completely unaware that it was possible for a family to enjoy each other’s company and converse using their “indoor voices” — a notion I have only heard of in theory. It was enjoyable, and my ear drums enjoyed being able to relax.
My discomfort dispelled just in time for me to be exposed to new food, hooray! Though I was missing the roasted lamb, dolmades (rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices), and feta cheese, I discovered the joys of baked corn.
I know how silly this must seem, but it was completely foreign to me! The dish looked strange; it was like a fluffy corn soufflé with blackened, crispy edges. My eyes informed me it was burnt so I should skip it, but my nose was telling me to take ten scoops of the mystery dish. Relationships are all about compromise, so I took only two scoops.
One bite in, and I was hooked. The outer layer was crunchy, almost bread-like, and the inside was creamy and sweet, having been baked in an oven amplified the natural sweetness of the corn. I was overjoyed and couldn’t stop raving about it all day.
I wasn’t even missing lamb at this point. I was just so pleased to enjoy the day with my boyfriend, try new things, and experience his family’s version of Easter.
When the day had ended, I realized two things.
Obviously, I learned that I should have initially listened to my nose and I now desperately need that baked corn recipe.
More importantly, as we all know, holidays are about getting together with the people you care about and enjoying each others company. It doesn’t matter if they’re loud or soft-spoken, or if they serve dolmades or baked corn (though I’ll probably put a word in with my family about it). We might celebrate differently, but we come together for the same reason.
All corniness (I’m so sorry) aside, I’m pretty sure I aced American Easter. We’ll see how my boyfriend handles his first Greek Easter (affectionately nicknamed “Greeaster” by my cousins and I) on May 1st.
Between all the commotion and my grandma lovingly insisting we should have seconds and thirds, something tells me he might have a tougher go at it than I did.
Until next week!