Easter, Christmas, weddings, anniversaries, baptisms, all fall into the category of “family time”. Family time involves organizing & emotionally preparing oneself(if wise), packing, traveling, sharing (with all positive or not quite so, connotations) and definitely losing one’s own routine.
Both Greek & American cultures formally idealize “family time”. It’s all family values, sharing beautiful candlelit meals in front of a fire place and looking at babies spill food all over the place. Pop culture later comes and deconstructs it all with its “dysfunctional family” caricatures, tv series and comics’ funny depictions of the desperate boredom that often follows prolonged family holidays (truly prolonged or the ones that just feel that way).
What is worse though? Surviving a state fair -be it medieval, carnival or agricultural-, complete with tacky toys and greasy food, or yiayia’s extra echo-ey screams of aggressive orders which will continue to blatantly disregard any trace of democratic thought process or remnants of hopes of personal freedom of will, speech or thought (Yiayias have long been known to read your mind before it even got the chance to get its coffee and start thinking).
Any escape to a local coffee shop is followed by an analytical interrogation of what went on during the shady leave taken from the “family time”. Even the merriest, most optimistic family visitor will get unnerved after being asked to describe the muffin consumed at the neighborhood cafe which easily turns to hostile environment as far as yiayias and mamas are concerned.
Then again there are people who can turn this around to their own advantage. New Greek parents, having lost their beautiful, single and ready to mingle edge, happily exchange their privacy for babysitting and food provision privileges. Now that is something one won’t see in the US. American grandparents will visit the local toy store and may even go into the trouble of picking up the right cookies -if you’re lucky. That’s about it. Their next trip is to the Bahamas. Their time is done, they’ll happily announce, sipping their holiday Martini (or other umbrella bearing drink).
One may show preference for the Greek or the American approach at one time or another but only one thing is for sure: When getting ready for “family time”, keep your expectations low, your cell phone charged and your tickets flexible. Wi-fi also helps.