Archive | April, 2016

Persians Pour onto Madison Ave. to Celebrate Nowruz

18 Apr

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The warm spring air was inviting many people to come out and bask in the sunlight on a cloudless picture perfect day. If you happened to stroll on Madison Ave. from 38th to 26th Sts. this past Sunday you would have seen one of the most colorful parades in the city this year. The Persian Parade kicked off around noon to the applaud of thousands of revelers lining the parade route waiting to see traditional costume and dance. They were not disappointed in the least. Parade organizers, NY Persian Parade Foundation, use the parade to celebrate Nowruz, an ancient Persian holiday to welcome Spring, thawing of winter. It’s a traditional symbol of hope, rebirth and a time to look forward with family and friends. One thing I admire about this parade is all the time and effort it takes to transform a boring old float into a garden of  color and awe. Kids of all ages would be impressed with how monuments and architectural history can be built onto a float as a way of unifying those Persians in the US with those back home. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. After parade VIPs and dignitaries made their way down the parade route, the fun really began with the first group of traditional dancers and of course the ever playful representation of Haji Firuz.

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The tradition of handing out money to small children was kept alive by a man dressed like old man winter. Persians are very spiritual people and boast about being one of the original declarers of human rights which modern Western society aspire to emulate. Devout followers of the Zoroastrian way of life marched in the parade with their blue robes. I didn’t see the Rumi followers as in previous years. There was more traditional dancers this year and one of the more impressive groups came from the Boston area. The Aftab Dancers really got the crowd worked up. Soon to follow was a large group of Central Asian Vatans with traditional attire and typical musical instruments. There was another group with traditional dancers while another group made their first visit to the parade..the Nomad dancers. They were really good. A parade favorite is the traditional wrestlers, Zoorkhaneh. They had their float with a drummer singing a song the crowd sang along with while the main wrestler gave instructions to his student wrestlers. Insanity it was not but it was still fun to watch. They were followed by a group of traditional dancers dressed in black that got the crowd moving towards Madison Square Park where there was more food and festivities celebrating Persian pride and culture.

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Happy Nawruz….Come Join Us Next Year.

Greek Unity Abound on 5th Ave.

11 Apr

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5th Ave. was turned into a sea of blue and white flags as thousands of Greek-Americans came out on a brisk Sunday afternoon to celebrate the 195th anniversary of Independence from the Ottoman Empire. This the largest gathering of Greek Americans outside Greece to honor and respect Orthodoxy, Hellenism and Greek contribution to America. A large contingency from Greece always make their way to the parade as a show of unity with the motherland. The mounted police signaled the start of the parade soon followed by parade organizers, VIPs and the lead band, The Pluto School Marching Band from Brooklyn. This year’s Grand Marshall was Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the head of Greece’s new Democracy opposition party and honoree Alex Scarlatos, who prevented a terrorist attack in Europe last year.

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The crowd was treated to an annual treat when the Presidential Guards, Evzones, with their unique march made their way up the parade route from 64th to 79th Sts.  They stopped by the grandstand on 67th St. and participated in both the American and Greek National anthems. Another group with a large following is the Greek American Folkloric Society with their traditional attire. The group keeps getting larger and better each year.  The second  half of the parade included a large group of Cyprian nationality, groups from Canada and Washington DC. Orthodox Churches from the Tri-state area sent their representatives to march in the festive parade. A group of traditional dancers took the stage by the grandstand and showed off their moves to the delight of the crowd. They weren’t far from the stage of the televised broadcast where NY TV personality Ernie Anastos anchored the event. The parade is also televised to thousands of viewers in Greece.  I’m pretty sure they were looking on with lots of joy, love and happiness in their hearts knowing that New Yorkers carry on the tradition and culture from Greece.

Long Live Greece.

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See you next year.

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