Irini Zervas is our first contributing editor on the website. She is Development and Communications Coordinator at the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, independent curator, and writer. Her latest article was featured in Hyperallergic. On peri-Tēchnes she is sharing her review and take on the history of the age-old tradition of the holiday gala, particularly the one hosted annualy by one of the oldest Greek communities and parishes in New York City – Annunciation, Upper West Side, NYC.
The halls of the Harvard Club were alive with kefi on Saturday, December 7, for the 2019 Mistletoe Gala, an annual event benefiting the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of the Upper West Side, New York City. Bartenders poured champagne, chefs hand-rolled sushi and a DJ spun Greek and American tunes as guests mingled, filling up the storied venue in midtown Manhattan.
As per usual when Greek Americans gather, there was no shortage of kefi on hand that night. Energy filled the air as old friends from the Annunciation Young Professionals group and other social clubs reunited, and new relationships were forged, perhaps while dancing to Greek music. The annual event, centered around fellowship and support of the Church, is the late-night accompaniment to the sit-down fundraiser happening in the adjacent room.
Mistletoe is distinct from other events on the Greek American gala circuit in New York because of it being organized by the Annunciation Young Professionals Group, however, the history of fundraising fellowship events among Greeks in the United States is long, dating from earlier years of Greek settlement in the country. Churches became not just religious, but also social poles, where people would come together and celebrate holidays and historical events and even bring their children to learn the Greek language, history and Orthodox faith. As such, parishes, just like that of the Annunciation, were vital and people strove to preserve them by means of raising funds. What better way to raise funds for such a cause than to organize an annual gala where everyone was welcome to eat, drink and be merry while supporting their parish and community?
The Church of the Annunciation has a 127-year-old presence in New York City. While the Mistletoe Gala has not been running for that long, it has still become an important and well-anticipated event in the church’s history. This year’s event was just as sparkling and wonderful as the ones prior.