Every September 15th is OPA! Day.
As we thought about the Irish having an international holiday marking St. Patrick's Day on March 17th, we asked ourselves: "what day do we celebrate all the contributions of the Greek culture?" Yes, there's Independence Day on March 25th marking the day that Greece gained independence from the Ottomans, and yes, there are Greek festivals held at churches on various days throughout the year, but there wasn't one day on the calendar when all of us can celebrate "All Things Greek" at the same time.
In 2008, we came up with the idea of "OPA! Day," a special day when people around the world can recognize and celebrate Greek culture and the many contributions that Greece has made through the ages to our way and quality of life in such areas as: Astronomy, Architecture, Art, Biology, Democracy, Drama, Education, Food/Diet, Language, Literature, Mathematics, Medicine, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Science, Sports, Theater....
So, OPA! Day was born. September 15th seemed like a good day -- it was after the summer holidays but not in the winter, it didn't interfere with too many other celebrations, and most of all, the United Nations had declared September 15th as the International Day of Democracy, which seemed especially fitting since Greece is known worldwide as the "cradle of democracy."
It also seemed fitting that the first OPA! Day celebration be held in Greece. So on September 15, 2010, the very first OPA! Day was celebrated in beautiful and historic Rethymno, Crete, Greece, at the lovely and hospitable Aegean Pearl Hotel. The sun was shining and the sea appeared to be more blue than ever. Over 400 Greeks and visitors from around the world attended this first OPA! Day event. Our partners at the Aegean Pearl prepared an extraordinary celebration -- with beautiful decorations (including a vast array of blue and white balloons and flowers), tables full of traditional Greek and Cretan mezes (appetizers), newly-invented drinks (blue ouzo and raki, special blue water), and above all, a special cake.
After introductory remarks from Mr. Eugenios Fragiadakis, who led the incredible Aegean Pearl Hotel team, Alex Pattakos, and Elaine Dundon, the Mayor of Rethymno, Mr. George Marinakis, shared some inspirational thoughts about the significance of OPA! Day. The Mayor was accompanied by Ms. Pepi Birliraki-Marnalaki, Rethymno's Vice-Mayor and Councillor with responsibility for Culture and Tourism. The Mayor's presentation and proclamation of OPA! Day in Rethymno was followed by the official cutting of the cake, mingling among the international guests and dignitaries, and enjoyment of traditional Greek music and dancing well into the night. Of course, everyone remembered to wear something blue, a national color of Greece.
This event marks the beginning of a global initiative to celebrate OPA! Day every September 15th. Importantly, the Municipality of Rethymno has now taken the celebration of OPA! Day under its umbrella and preparations to celebrate OPA! Day 2011 are underway. We've also received word that OPA! Day events are being planned this year in various communities and jurisdictions, including schools and restaurants, in Canada and the USA, as well as "Down Under."
This year, why not plan to celebrate OPA! Day on September 15th in your community, town, city, state, province, or organization? Celebrate Greek culture in restaurants, tavernas, bars, stores, colleges, universities, and city centers around the world. Celebrate with special Greek food, special Greek drinks, special prices, Greek dancing, and, of course, wearing something blue! Celebrate by having your public officials proclaim September 15th each year as "OPA! Day" like the Mayor of Rethymno, Crete, did. Help spread the joys and value of Greek culture and contributions. OPA!
For more information about OPA! Day, including ideas to help you get started with your plans to celebrate OPA! Day on September 15, 2011, please click on the following link: OPA! Day
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