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Hellenic Society brings spirit of Greece to campus

Club seeks to bond students of Greek descent and expose others to the rich Mediterranean culture

Published: Thursday, October 20, 2005

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

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Photo courtesy of Irene Marinakis

The executive board of the Hellenic Society cooridinates traditional Greek activities at BC.

Few things are more enticing than the thought of sipping wine and eating flaky pastries at a tiny sidewalk café. Add an iridescent turquoise ocean, an array of picturesque buildings, and some Mediterranean flair, and the scene becomes even more alluring.

Many poor college students can only fantasize about vacationing in Greece, but they need not miss out on the cultural experience entirely. The Hellenic Society of Boston College works to bring the spice of Greece to Boston.

"The Hellenic Society is multi-faceted. We try to create a sense of community on campus for all students of Greek descent, but we also attempt to educate the rest of the student body about Greece as a modern nation with a modern population," says Chrissy Makkas, vice president of the club and A&S '06.

"We always encourage students of non-Greek descent to come to our events, hang out, and learn a little bit about what it means to be Greek - even if it's just enjoying our food," she adds.

Founded in 1982 by a small group of students wanting to promote Greek culture, history, food, and dancing, the Hellenic Society is an established club at BC.

It sponsors a variety of events on campus, including themed Greek nights at the dining halls and performances by its newly-formed dance troupe.

It also holds many smaller affairs for its members.

"Our main events are usually social gatherings or dinners, where we cook Greek food and listen to Greek music," says Alex Xenopoulos, club treasurer and A&S '06. "Those are the traditional bonds that most Greeks can relate to."

At the beginning of October the Hellenic Society held its first traditional dinner of the semester. The meal was comprised of heaping piles of Greek salad, spanakopita (a spinach pie), pastitsio (lasagna), tzatziki (a yogurt dip), fasolakia (a string bean dish), and, of course, some rich baklava for dessert.

The club also holds educational meetings in which members learn the Greek alphabet and other fun aspects of the culture. Every two to three weeks a newsletter is sent out to members updating them on current social and political issues in Greece.

The Greek presence at BC is a small but powerful one. The members of the Hellenic Society take great pride in their heritage, and enjoy reminiscing about their shared childhood experiences.

"The Greek community is close. There has always been a gravitational pull for Americans of Greek ancestry to form various Hellenic associations," says Xenopoulos.

"The main Greek institution that generally permeates Greeks in America is the Greek Orthodox Church. I was involved in a variety of programs at my church when I was younger, so I felt that I should get involved at BC."

Club member Nick Maragos, A&S '08, agrees.

"Coming from a Greek family, I associate Greek culture with my home," he says. "I went to a Greek Orthodox church, so in a predominantly Catholic and Irish school, it's great to have the connection to other Greek kids."

Though the students of Mediterranean descent bond over commonalities, the Hellenic Society is a very inclusive group, and members need not be Greek to participate.

"It is part of the Greek culture to be hospitable and welcoming and those values definitely apply to the way that our club is run," says Irene Marinakis, club president and A&S '06. "Students seem to shy away from the Greek Club because they think they need to be Greek to join. This is a misconception."

The activities of the Hellenic Society extend far past BC's borders. The members frequently travel to other schools in the area, both to hear important speakers lecture on Greek issues, and to partake in social activities.

One major event that the club participates in is the Hellenic Intercollegiate Dance, an annual occurrence which includes students from other Massachusetts universities.

"We try to integrate our Greek heritage within the Boston area. It is a great way for Greeks from other universities to meet and gets to know each other better," says Marinakis.

BC's club also schedules visits to Filoxenia House in Brookline, a facility where Greek families can stay free-of-charge while receiving medical treatment.

Whether on campus or off, the Hellenic society members enjoy the richness of incorporating their heritage into their American lives.

"It's like they say on My Big Fat Greek Wedding," says Maragos. "'There are two types of people in the world. The Greeks, and those that wish they were.'"

To get involved, simply contact one of the Hellenic Society officers. They'll quickly put you on the listserv and you'll be well on your way to enjoying a traditional, home-cooked Greek meal.

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