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I Believe In Family and Culture

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I sit with my family gathered around the table. Someone is telling a story in English on one side of the table, and my mom translates in Greek to my yiayia (my grandmother) on the other side. And my papou (my grandfather) repeats a statement for the tenth time (because of his Alzheimer’s): It’s good to know two languages. And although hearing those words from him all the time can be tiring, his statement holds special meaning to me.


I was immersed in two different cultures ever since I was born. While I am an American citizen, speak English, and go to school in the typical seaside town in the suburbs of Massachusetts, I also identify with my Greek heritage just as much. From Kindergarten to seventh grade my mom would pick up my brother, sister, and I up from “American” school and bring us to our local church for Greek school. There we learned how to read, write, and speak Greek.


When I began Greek school, my innocent five-year-old self assumed that all kids went. I even thought that the Greek words for things such as laundry, napkins, and icecream were the same in English. I would watch the disney princess movies in Greek and would walk around the house singing the songs in the language.


In elementary school I began to realize how my family did some things differently than the other kids’ families from school. I remember complaining to my mom and asking why we were forced to go to church every Sunday, or why we had to go to my grandparents house for dinners on the weekends, while my American friends got to hang out together. One of the worst parts of growing up Greek for me (that I believed at the time) was during Easter time. The whole week leading up to Easter Sunday, our Holy Week, my family would spend every day at church.


My friends and classmates during the Spring would bring with them to school their sports bags filled with gym shorts and cleats. But not my siblings and I. For a week we had to forego our friends and hours running up and down the fields in the fresh air. Instead, we brought with us to school dresses and heels and would spend our evening in a room of hymns and burning incense. It was hard at lunch too as I would watch my friends eat leftover pizza or a chicken sandwich, when I was subjected to eating anything that didn’t contain meat, oil, or dairy. During these times, I couldn’t help but wish that I wasn’t part Greek.


As I got older, however I gained a new perspective on living with two cultures.


I have realized that my parents raising my siblings and I as American and Greek have given us values and experiences I wouldn’t change for the world. As cliche as that may sound, the Greek side of me has taught me not only a new language, but a new way of life.


From visiting my family in Greece and to practicing my cultural customs at home, my Greek heritage has shown me how one’s life wouldn’t be as complete without family. The Greeks are known to be loud and outgoing people. These people, my family, display a love for life and an acceptance for all kinds of people.


I give my parents credit for allowing my siblings and I the opportunity to grow up in two cultures. From my Greekness I have grown to find a love for culture, all cultures, and for people.


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The student news site of Swampscott High School.
I Believe In Family and Culture