This weekend marks the 21st birthday of the National Multicultural Festival, the best celebration of cultural diversity in Australia. The event will take place in the city’s Garema Place over three days between Friday 17th and Sunday 19th.
The annual Festival represents almost every cultural heritage in the world and welcomed more than 280,000 visitors last year. Since it’s beginning in 1996, it has evolved into one of the biggest occasions on Canberra’s event landscape.
The Greek community is one example of the many cultural displays that the festival boasts. The Greek Glendi has been a significant part of the festival since the very first day, 21 years ago.
Former President of the Greek Community, George Karkazis, says, “The Glendi has changed a lot over the years. It’s grown and grown. Now everybody, from all over the place wants to participate, even visitors from overseas, which is great! It’s very popular.”
Karkazis shared memories of the young Greek children marching in a parade two decades ago, dressed in traditional costumes, laughing as he recalled his own children in the parade.
As a half-Greek kid myself, I reluctantly attended Greek dancing lessons every Monday night. However, when the Glendi came around, it was all worth it, because we finally got to show off everything we’d learnt, spinning around in our delicate traditional skirts with our parents whistling from the audience. The National Multicultural Festival was the event we looked forward to all summer.
After we came off the stage, we’d run to the loukoumades stall to sneak some from Yia Yia so we didn’t have to wait in line. If you’ve ever been the festival you’ve probably noticed the ridiculously long line stretching from the loukoumades stall.
If you don’t know what this weird, long, unpronounceable word is, memorise it now! They’re bite-sized honey puffs (the Greek version of doughnuts), which are deep fried to golden and crispy perfection, soaked in hot honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Karkazis explained that Canberrans are much more interested in the Greek culture as the Multicultural Festival has grown.
“Visitors love watching the kids perform Greek dancing and eating souvlaki… and the famous loukoumades of course!” he says.
The Glendi is not only a way of promoting Greek culture and involving the wider community, but a way of making us feel proud of what we are part of by sharing it with our friends from other cultures, through dancing, costumes, plate smashing and of course, delicious food!
However, the National Multicultural Festival is about more than just food. It’s an important event that facilitates a connection between different cultures and allows national and international visitors to congregate and enjoy each other’s heritage.
Walking through the city, surrounded by people from all over the world, I feel lucky to have grown up in a country that celebrates multiculturalism the way we do. The festival is a celebration that promotes equality of opportunity, minimising social exclusion and maintaining social cohesion for culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans.
This year, there will be a free opening concert on Friday night, headlined by iconic Australian singer, Kate Ceberano, who will be supported by many other international performers.
The festival’s mission is to allow all Canberrans and visitors to participate in a celebration of diversity and social inclusion, through food, dancing and other cultural traditions.
So why not try something new this weekend?