This Father’s Day weekend, Greece can be found at the corner of Mt. Vernon Place and Francis Street as St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church holds its 32nd annual Yassou Festival.
Yassou is a Greek greeting meaning “to your health.” This – combined with the Greek tradition of the “sweet spoon” where Greek families give guests sweets upon entering the home – sets up the perfect atmosphere of hospitality and comradery.
“We love the families that run it, and we love the food. We love the sense of community,” said Danielle Crawford, of Jamestown, who has been coming to the festival for the past five years. And Crawford isn’t the only one. About 6,000 people come to the Yassou Festival every year.
The festival started 32 years ago by Father Raphael. Greek Orthodox churches across the country were holding Greek cultural festivals, and St. Nicholas GOC decided to hold one of its own as a fundraiser for the church. What makes the Yassou Festival unique is all the food is handmade by the 100 members of the parish. The parishioners start as early as January making the food for the festival. By the end of today, most, if not all, of the food will be sold-out. Alexis Singleton, a parishioner who was helping with the bakery, said the lamb shank dinner was a new delicacy added to the menu this year that will likely sell-out.
Over the years, new attractions have been added to the roster – such as Kid’s Play-tia and Kafenion Greek Coffee Shop – but for the most part the festival has stayed the same for the last 32 years. The status quo is fitting for a church which has stayed traditional since 1054 when the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church split in the “Great Schism.”
For those who want to learn more about the Greek Orthodox church and religion, Father George Zervos, parish priest, is more than happy to give interested parties a tour of the chapel.
The festival will continue today from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Admittance fee is $2.