Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: Attempting to define ‘opa’
One comes around when it is time.
When it is time for some fresh home cooked lamb. When it is time for some wholesome old storytelling and continuous laughs. And when it is time to bring out the ouzo shots.
Maybe ouzo is the reason that Greek weddings only come around every other year, because the hangover lasts for that long anyway. Or, at least that is what I would have said two Sundays ago after too many shots of ouzo and throbbing calves from the intense kicks and stomps of the Greek dances.
But, in actuality, I think it is because it takes this extended period of time to stop talking about the previous Greek wedding in order for the next to begin.
For those who have never been to a Greek wedding, or those whose only knowledge of the activities of a Greek wedding are from the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (which is a good starting point), I am here to inform you to the best of my ability about the addiction to Greek weddings that exists today in mainstream media and within the culture.
Even though the only way to truly experience the spark is to attend one yourself.
There is amazing Mediterranean style food, special religious wedding vow traditions and black licorice flavored liquor. But, the most vital and pivotal part to a Greek wedding is the people who attend.
At a Greek wedding, there are no wallflowers because it’s impossible to escape the constant cheek pinches or everyone pulling you onto the dance floor and the constant Opas! being screamed in your face.
The fact is that everyone is embarrassing themselves, therefore there is no embarrassment to be had.
After a Greek wedding, I find myself saying “opa” at various occasions throughout my day. But, now with the commercialization of the Greek culture into mainstream media we find a variety of people from various cultures using opa in their vocabulary, as well.
When people discover that I am full Greek, the first question they usually ask is what opa means. The second is, do you really break plates at weddings?
Most people need a definition for every word and its usage in a sentence, but opa, like a lot of Greek expressions, is impossible to define.
For all of you who seek a specific definition, there isn’t one. To the best of my ability, I can explain that opa is primarily defined in a celebratory context to excite people and get the party started.
It is the best vocabulary word, kind of like awesome, extraordinary and extreme combined into one. But, there is no one contextual meaning.
Much like the expression cannot be defined, neither can the Greek culture itself. Instead, it must be experienced.
We went to a Greek wedding two weekends ago in Montana, and then this past weekend I went to a Greek festival in Chicago.
It seems no matter where I travel, I constantly find myself discovering a Greek outlet whether on purpose or by mistake.
Much like you can’t be a wallflower at a Greek wedding, you can’t be a wallflower in life. The Greek culture has taught me, through all the Greek festivals, weddings, conventions and traditions, that there is always a reason to get up and dance whether that’s on the dance floor or through life.
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