Here’s an interesting question poised to me the other day. If you were having a Christmas dinner, and you could invite seven people, living or deceased, who would you invite and why? Interesting. I started thinking and said to myself, “Harry, what seven ‘Greeks’ would you invite to a Christmas dinner?”

Here’s my list and not in any specific order:

Alexander the Great: He’s Macedonian. No other answer required! Seriously, think about it. He conquered most of the known-world all before he died at age 33. He spread Hellenism throughout the world, which we still feel the effects of today. He also tried to unite the different peoples of those conquered lands. Okay, he had some issues – wiped out entire cities and had bouts of extreme emotional outbursts to the point that he killed his friends. I guess we could look past those issues since he considered himself a god and actually did declare himself a god. Talk about an Alpha Male! Besides, wouldn’t you want a god at your table?

Basile: He’s the Greek-American comedian. He just makes me laugh. I like his line about Greek Easter. Greeks celebrate after “regular” Easter and the Greeks are the only ones that can make Jesus come back twice in one year! That’s funny. Every holiday dinner has to have at least one comedian at the table so why not a professional.

Pheidippides: You know him. He was the Athenian soldier who, after the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, ran from Marathon to Athens, about 25 miles, announced “Nikomen” (We have won!), collapsed and died. Most people don’t know that when the Persians landed at Marathon, he was sent to Sparta to request help. He ran about 150 miles in two days! I’m no runner – just from the couch to the refrigerator, but I do know runners and God Bless them, but 150 miles in two days! And he did it without steroids, unless of course, you consider tsipouro a steroid!

Jennifer Aniston: Really, do I have to explain why?

Constantine XI Palaiologos: He was the last emperor of the Byzantine Empire. The siege of Constantinople by Mehmed II was the death Knell of the Empire and Constantine went down in a blaze on May 29, 1453 when he tore off his royal vestments and led his soldiers on a last charge to his death. Prior to the fall of the City, Constantine appealed to the West and the Roman Church – they sent nominal help and to this day, there is an underlying resentment that the Roman Church sold out Constantine and the Byzantine Empire and allowed it to fall. What would Constantine say at the dinner table? Pass the mashed potatoes and damn those Italians!

Diogenes: Every dinner table should have a philosopher and since we are Greeks, and invented everything, we need a philosopher. Socrates, Plato and the rest are common. Diogenes the Cynic, well, he was strange. But when Alexander the Great met him the philosopher was sunbathing, and, Alexander, thrilled to have met him, asks if he could do anything for him. “Yes,” answered Diogenes, “stand out of my sunlight.” That took some real, you know what! With Alexander at the dinner, should make for an interesting night.

Theodora Stoikou-Karapalidou: My paternal grandmother. Why? Here was a woman that married my grandfather, Argyri, and the two became wealthy but during the German occupation of Greece and the Greek Civil War afterwards, they lost everything. My grandfather, who had a Jewish partner and tried to save them, was placed in a Nazi prison, survived, then arrested again after the Germans left, this time by the Greek Royal government for aiding the Communists, but in reality he was aiding the antartes against the Germans then helping the troops loyal to the Greek King against the Communists. Meanwhile, her relatives are being murdered by both the Germans and the Communists, and her son, my father, is fighting the Communists. Throughout these tragic years she did what she had to do and kept the family intact. To me, she represents and embodies the strength and determination of the Greek woman. Like Nicholas Gage’s mother, Eleni, told in his best-selling novel, and millions of other Greek women during WWII and the Greek Civil War, and every conflict in Greece… the Greek woman is the unsung hero. You need a strong Greek mother at the dinner table.

That’s my list and I’m sticking to it. It would be a wonderful dinner. I envision everyone at the elegant dinner table, beautiful flowers in the center, wine flowing, and bountiful food. Of course, Alexander’s sword would be getting in the way and Constantine would still be cursing the Muslims and the Italians. Pheidippides would have to “run” to the bathroom or somewhere, and my grandmother would wait until everyone else ate before she ate… a typical Greek yiayia. Basile would be taking notes for his comedy act. Diogenes would hopefully not take his clothes off to sunbath. And Jennifer… well, what can I say.

So enjoy the dinner. More turkey, spanakopita? Who would you invite and why?

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