Every Memorial Day Weekend, the Crescent City enjoys an effusive celebration of Greek culture at the New Orleans Greek Festival, put on at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral by its congregation.
The sounds of Greek music fill the air, as does the wonderful aroma of Greek food during this three-day indoor and outdoor fete. There is dancing and feasting, and of course ouzo – sold by the bottle or the shot at the quaint taverna set up at the festival. There are also Greek wines to sample, along with iced Greek coffee. There are kids activities and fabulous, colorful arts and crafts for sale.
There are tons of food options, including souvlaki, baklava, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach pie), and gyro sandwiches (pita bread pockets stuffed with lamb, pork and zesty sauce). An ad hoc Greek pastry is shop set up with more 20 traditional homemade Greek pastries, including baklava, galaktoboureko, kourabiedes, cakes and cookies all available to take home and savor. Members of the congregation are known to begin cooking for the festival the day the previous one ends.
There is also music for Greek fans, especially the distinctive sounds of the bouzouki guitar, with Hellenic dancers in colorful native costumes sway to the driving rhythms. There is a dance floor set up as everyone is encouraged to try some steps in this very friendly atmosphere. A favorite is always the performances of the little Hellenic dancers.
There is entertainment for all ages, from an Athenian playground set up outside with face painting and crafts to fun things for the adults to do, like watching cooking demonstrations or renting a canoe to ride down the Bayou St. John, where you can still hear the music. There is a toga contest (of course!) on Sunday – all entrants get in free.
The cathedral has the first and older Greek Orthodox congregation in the nation, which opening in 1866. Visitors can look at the beautiful structure, including its magnificent, Byzantine-style dome. There are also frescoes and stained glass windows in the classic Eastern Orthodox artistic style.
There is a small entry fee to come to the festival. Children under 12 are admitted free.