A Peace of Baklava at the Greek and Turkish Festivals

September is special because you have the opportunity to experience two huge, cultural festivals in a same month: the Greek and Turkish Festivals.

The Greek Festival operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Sunday at St George Greek Orthodox Church, 2101 Northwest 145th Street, Oklahoma City.

The parishioners first cooked in the basement of the previous church at N.W. 8th and Western to finance the parish. The event became the Greek Festival with all its activities when the church moved to the current location in 1984.

One of the main parts of the festival is to savor the great varieties of Greek dishes, said Chris Kostas Gianos, Greek Festival chairman for the last eight years. Beyond the clichés of Greek food, attendees may discover the tasty Kalamari, fried rings of squid topped off with lemon, or the succulent Melomarkana cookies, traditionally made with olive oil, flower, and honey.

Furthermore, the members and the friends of the church prepare the Parthenon dinners inside the church fellowship hall: baked lamb, chicken and soutzoukakia. The dishes are accompanied with roasted potatoes, green beans, spanikopita and pita bread.

greek-festival-dancers
Greek dancers at the festival. Photo provided by Greekfestokc.

A Greek band from Dallas called To Kefi performs a unique Greek music in alternation with traditional Greek dancers to complement this delectable food. To Kefi plays a variety of Greek music from the traditional ballad to the most recent songs, to represent the different influence of each region of Greece. The heart of the group is composed of one bouzouki, an ancient string instrument. “A lot of our songs are meant to get people dancing, whether that is line dancing or individual improvised dancing,” To Kefi band said.

Families and children are welcome; a kids’ zone is open at the event and there is free admission to the festival until 5 p.m. on Friday. “This is a tremendous way for kids to discover another culture,” Gianos said.

It is also the main purpose of the Raindrop Foundation, organizer of the Turkish Festival, to introduce another culture into American society. It runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Saturday at the Myriad Botanical Gardens.

The event, like the Greek Festival, also celebrates food, with authentic Turkish dishes, such as the Kisir, a cracked wheat salad, the Revani, a semolina cake in syrup and the Ickli Kofte, a tasty fried case of bulgur and potato filled with a spicy meat and nut mixture, according to event website.

In addition to a Turkish tea with a delicious baklava, people have the opportunity to watch Onur Kasaburi, a choreographer-dancer in the Rakkas Dance Ensemble in Dallas, performs the centenarian Whirling Dervish dance.  Kasaburi dances a unique style that comes directly from the practices of Sufi, the inner mystical dimension of Islam.

whirling dervish dance, Onur Kasaburi
Whirling dance by Onur Kasaburi.

The purpose of the Dervish dance is to reach perfection in your movements to be in symbiosis with God. “This dance is a kind of therapy,” Kasaburi said. ” This dance would be cool as soon as you keep your concentration on the high level. That’s actually what I feel when I perform. I am isolating myself from all around me. Thus, I am happy.”

A variety of additional attractions are also available to the attendees, such as Water Marbling (Ebru) art, Turkish ceramic arts, calligraphy and henna art, according to Ersin Demerci, Raindrop’s president of the board of directors.

The Greek and Turkish peoples share a complicated and passionate history dating back more than a thousand years. Today the two communities live in peace in the OKC metro area with one exception, “Who invented Baklava?” Demerci asked.

One thing which both communities share in common is a marvelous cultural heritages.

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