There seem to be no less than a hundred holidays in Greece throughout the year, but March is perhaps the most holiday-filled. There were two holidays last week, one of which was in celebration of a multiple islands off the coast of Turkey coming back into the possession of Greece many decades ago. To commemorate this occasion, the local Greeks of Leros celebrate with a parade, which somewhat resembles Halloween in the United States. Each group in the parade dressed up in different costumes and then paraded down the streets of Lakki.
Our coordinators decided we should be part of the parade and dress as Greek Gods. I found this comical since none of us are actually from Greece, but I think that was the whole point. So, in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, the entire group of volunteers and a few dozen residents of the camp dressed in white and spray painted some leaves gold to make into crowns for our heads. When it was all said and done, I think we looked pretty ridiculous–which was perfect. None of us resembled Gods, in my opinion, but we did all at least match.
It took a number of hours to prepare everyone’s costumes and to dress our van up for the occasion. I think getting ready for the event was the best part, that’s when everyone was having the most fun. When it came time for the parade itself, we had to wait over an hour before processing down the main street of Lakki. I attribute the holdup to the Greek culture, nothing ever “needs” to begin on time. But the day was perfect. The sun was out and the temperature was right where it needed to be for a stroll outdoors in strange attire.
Our spot in the parade was between a group of women dressed up like flamingoes and a truck full of men sitting in the back of the pickup, dressed like they were going to rob a bank with masks over their faces and plastic guns in their hands. The local elementary school had all of its students dressed up like the different countries of the world. This meant there were a bunch of little tikes running around with giant pieces of paper draped over their shoulders with little sketches of maps on them.
I think the entire celebration lasted a few hours, but by the time the parade wrapped up we had been preparing for so long that we basically just dispersed and called it a day.
The only hiccup we experienced throughout the day was in the middle of the parade when an on-looker shouted something at our group as we walked by. We made no effort to hide who we were. We were clearly a group of international volunteers and refugees from all over the world. We were not locals. One of the volunteers, who happens to be Greek, overheard one of the spectators shouting something rude at us. I watched as she pulled herself out of the parade and confronted the person in the crowd. When I caught back up with her later, she was upset, but she didn’t give me any specifics on what she had said to them or what they had said to her. I already knew the entire story though, just by looking at her face as she stepped out of the parade and feeling her reaction afterwards.
The day was fun. It pulled many of the residents away from the dire conditions of the camp for a while. It’s too bad that someone was rude to us, but no one was impacted by it since no one understands Greek and there were many cheers from the crowd to overpower the racism. But, this is the reality, nonetheless.