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Greeks of Baltimore Band Together for Independence Day

Baltimore, Md. — Outside of St. Nick’s Greek Orthodox Church yesterday, music reverberated up and down Eastern Avenue.

From the speakers playing traditional Greek songs and issuing announcements, to the tsabouna players and drummers, the excitement was tangible. At every turn, someone was either smoking a cigarette or making the sign of the cross, beaming with pride. This was Baltimore’s Greek Independence Day Parade, and people from all around the state gathered together to take part in the joyous celebration.

The clergy from St. Nicholas, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, St. Demetrios and Sts. Mary Magdalene & Markella — the churches of Baltimore and the surrounding area — and dignitaries from all levels of the United States government attended, watching and waving at each group marching. The groups came from all around Maryland. Some dignitaries gave speeches on how proud they are to be Greek-American, and others read proclamations declaring March 25 a celebration of Greek independence. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) signed his proclamation just yesterday, stating it is a day for all of Maryland to celebrate, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake read off the proclamation that Baltimore also recognizes the holiday.

“Today, we celebrate the friendship between two of the greatest democratic countries in the world — Greece and the United States,” Sen. Ben Cardin said. “We are all here to share in the celebration, and remember how important this is to take pride in what the Greek community has done. I know it has been tough times for Greece, but friends stand with friends and the United States stands with Greece.”

The parade continued, culminating in a performance by the Evzones of the Maryland Greek Independence Day Parade, the laying of the wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, awards being presented and Greek dancing. Committee members and marchers alike joined together to show off their Greek pride. The Yiayias (grandmas) lined the perimeter of the makeshift dance floor, eyes shining with pride in the youth.

“I like to see a lot of young people involved in Greek events,” said Christina Arviakis, who was marching with St. Nicholas. “When teens are involved, we learn how to work it for when we get older. Everyone forgets the specific island they are from and unite. We just think about being Greek.”

Most seemed to share the sentiment, and said they can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year’s parade.

“Four years ago, we formed the Maryland Greek Independence Day Parade committee, and we had no flags, no evzones costumes and no money,” said Manuel Matsos, a member of the parade committee from the Cathedral of the Annunciation. “With the hard work from volunteers from all the churches, their dedication and your support, we have kept this parade alive. The parade lives.”

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