Yesterday, we ventured into St. Louis to attend the Greek Festival held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, but for some reason, had never gotten around to.
Getting there was easy–the church is located on Forest Park Blvd., right at Kingshighway. There was even free parking available at the BJC parking garage, which was an unexpected perk–usually it’s parking at these things that kill us. It was just a quick elevator ride down, and we were right in the middle of things!
The sidewalks directed us to the different places we could go, including the church itself, and the various outdoor eating/entertainment areas.
The lines for the different places to eat were unbelievably long, so we didn’t actually get to sample the cuisine. The people watching was fun, though. And it smelled amazing out there–a combination of lamb grilling and honey–sounds like a strange combination, but it smelled great!
In addition to seeing food items we had never heard of before, such as a Baklava Sundae, (I kind of wish we had sampled it–maybe next year!), we also discovered that some of the vendors had quite a sense of humor!
We walked around the indoor marketplace for a bit, which was much smaller than I had expected, (for some reason, I was also expecting it to be outside), but still well stocked. They had items ranging from jewelry to miniature icons; feta cheese to miniature Greek flags.
It was a very busy place, but I couldn’t resist stopping to buy each of the girls a little bracelet from one of the jewelry vendors.
The highlight of the day for us was the church tour. I love seeing different sanctuaries, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with this one! The children were amazed at how different it was from the churches they’re familiar with, and I can’t say that I disagreed with them.
The stained glass throughout the building was beautiful.
The iconography, while pretty foreign to us Lutherans, was also amazing to look at.
I thought that the bishop’s chair, which is reserved for visits from the bishop, who is in Chicago, was pretty impressive. Very ornate, and very much a throne.
The baptismal font was also amazing. Turkey, in particular, liked how large and shiny it was.
Even the candle holders were ornate and beautiful.
The talk that was given by some of the church members was also quite interesting. While I obviously don’t agree with all of their theology, they did give an explanation of Marian theology that was the most beautiful that I’ve ever heard, and very much in line with my own confessional Lutheran theology. They made a point of saying that they don’t venerate the Theotokos, (Mary), for her sake, but that they look to her because she proclaims Christ. The icon of Mary and baby Jesus in the front of the church reflected that sentiment.
I was also interested in the explanation of the arrangement of the icons on the iconostasis at the front of the church. The aforementioned Mary with baby Jesus is on one side of the entrance, and an adult Jesus is on the other. Next to the icon of the adult Christ is an icon of John the Baptist, and next to Mary is an icon of Nicholas, for whom the church is named. On either end, are icons of the angels Michael and Gabriel, and the icons are actually doors, by which the altar boys enter and exit the church. I thought that was fascinating, and quite symbolic.
Our only regret was that because of the lines, we didn’t get to sample the food at the festival, and also didn’t get to see the Greek dancers, (who were performing on stages in the food areas). We did make up for it by stopping for dinner at Olympia Kebob House, where the children had their first experience with saganaki, (we may have scarred Moose for life–he does not believe food should be lit on fire!). They also received a basic introduction in the major food items involved in Greek coking–lamb, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, pita bread, and honey.
It was a very fun, busy day! Up next–I think we’re going to try to make it the Romanian Orthodox festival next month.