I’ve made up my mind: my research will center on the Glendi Festival in Santa Rosa. This international food festival takes place in my hometown. Put on by St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church, they serve Eastern European cuisine and provide live Balkan music.
Though the festival has existed since 1989 (predating my birth), I hadn’t heard of it until just last year. I thought my Eastern European Orthodox heritage was uncelebrated by Sonoma County locals. I was dead wrong.
The weekend-long festival has attendance in the thousands, which makes me think — somehow Glendi is creating the magic that makes Eastern European culture worthwhile and relevant.
So far I’ve felt little pride in my heritage: my father was raised by two strict, authoritative Ukrainian-immigrant parents. True parties were not a thing, much less presents under a Christmas tree. At church, I would stand for two full hours and listen to Ukrainian chants echo through the elaborate church halls, watching my priest grandfather swing smoke and incense. It was plain to see that I was standing with nobody my own age, listening to a language never taught to me. I didn’t get it — but I sure hope to.
Glendi is Greek for party, already shattering the stiff, conservative assumptions from my upbringing. Glendi understands the key ingredients that makes us come together and have a cultural celebration. They know how to establish pride, both for those involved and for onlookers.
Through interviews with the church, I hope to become inspired by their love — for people, for food, for tradition, and for their own beliefs and lifestyle. I want to discover what entrances people. Why do they go?
In my next blog, I hope to talk about next steps. Right now, this all has manifested as a passion, but it will soon become concrete. It will be a plan.