Southeast Texans have so much to choose from to see, do and participate in during any given year. Saturday, May 5, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., residents have an opportunity to visit the Mediterranean in a way that is both easy and fun. St. Michael’s Christian Orthodox Church in Beaumont is inviting members and guests to come and take part in a cultural exchange, including food, entertainment, teaching, tours and wonderful fellowship. If you are not a student of the Orthodox Church, this is an opportunity to become better acquainted with their beliefs and traditions in a fun and enjoyable way and to make meaningful memories with your family or friends.Admission is free and everyone is invited, according to organizers of the event.
“There will be live music and Arabic and Greek dance troupes, delicious authentic Mediterranean food, drink and pastries, as well as church tours, cultural history exhibits, a shopping bazaar, and a host of children’s activities,” said Christine Gavrelos, event chair. Gavrelos added that there would also be a Mediterranean Marketplace featuring ethnic groceries, spices, homemade pastries, coffees, teas and china, as well as Orthodox Christian icons, books and gifts.
Guests attending the Mediterranean Fest in the past remarked that the event was one of the most educational and fun in the area. “We tasted so many new and delicious foods and were able to gain a much clearer understanding of what our friends believe and enjoy,” said one who is planning to attend again this year. “The festival was simply a lot of fun, and, well, the food, what can I say? It was delicious and different in many ways.”
This year’s schedule is packed full of fun and adventure. Guests will want to be present for the beginning at 11 a.m. with the Blessing of the Festival and opening prayer by Fr. Michael Pavez and Deacon Elias “Habeeb” Nacol. Shortly after the prayer, the children’s area will open behind the food tents. The little guests will enjoy arts and crafts and a baby animal petting zoo. At 11:10 a.m., live Greek band George and Nicholas will perform on the outside stage while other guests enjoy Middle Eastern music by George Haddad inside the church hall. At noon, a Middle Eastern dance troupe will provide entertainment inside the church hall. Be sure to stay for the tour of the beautiful church at 1 p.m. where you will be enthralled at the beauty and splendor you will view.
At 2 p.m., the entertainment begins once again with a Greek dance troupe from St. Basil Church performing inside the church hall. At 2:30 p.m., the Middle East dance troupe performs live on the outside stage. Church tours will also be available at 3, 5 and 7 p.m., as well as continuing entertainment all afternoon and early evening. (See the schedule for complete times and acts).
“We are excited about all aspects of the festival, from food to music to the activities for the little ones,” said Gavrelos. “If our guests have traveled extensively, they will recognize the food is authentic. If not, they will have the opportunity to taste truly authentic dishes prepared using centuries-old recipes with great care and concern. Our food is always exceptional.”
The St. Michael Syrian dinner was first served to Beaumont residents and guests in 1909 and has become an annual fundraiser for the church. The church is said to have been founded by Syrian, Lebanese and Greek immigrants in 1898, and the early traditions live on in today’s culture.
The most conspicuous characteristics of Orthodoxy are its rich liturgical life and its faithfulness to the apostolic tradition. Today’s Orthodox Church numbers about 300 million adherents worldwide. The word “orthodox” is defined by “right belief and right glory” in the truest sense by these believers and is comprised by groups of “autocephalous” or self-governing churches. The unity of the church is manifested in common faith and communion and sacraments.
St. Michael Orthodox Church is at 680 N. 15 St. in Beaumont at the corner of North Street and North 15th Street. See www.stmichaeltx.org  or call (409) 838-4951 for additional information.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.