Upper Darby, PA – If you’ve never been to a Friday night “Parakath” as it’s known, you’ve never really experienced the essence of Pontian culture. The term “Parakath”, literally refers to a social gathering in Pontian Greek. The term and tradition is synonymous with Pontian music, dancing, singing and celebrating a culture that is more than 2500 years old.
On Saturday evening, the annual Pontian Akritai Dance of Philadelphia takes place following Thanksgiving. Like most Greek regional dances, they are hosted in a church hall or even a banquet facility. Awards and short speeches are given, while a community celebrates. But on the evening before, the tradition, popularly known as a “mouhapet” takes place.
It’s an intimate, loosely controlled affair that has no formal structure or time limit, adding to the excitement. Lights are on low, and the no smoking laws are lifted. Musicians and singers share the dance floor so close, their often scene singing and dancing together. Requests are yelled out, while others walk up and throw bundles of dollar bills.
As the music builds throughout the evening, the floor begins to shake. Musicians suddenly stop playing and the the Pontian language fills the air, sung by those dancing on the floor. It’s a truly amazing spectacle and emotional moment that unites.
A “Parakath” at a Pontian Leski is our last really authentic Greek experience in America. It’s not a fancy club, with a bouncer at the door. Instead, you’re greeted with a hug, kiss and “De’ ftas” (hello how are you in Pontian)? They don’t hand you a menu. You eat whatever Effie has in the kitchen. And at two am, the bartender doesn’t yell “last call”. Instead, the light of day streaming in the window, signals the moment is recorded.
In a final climactic moment that may last for hours, It’s then, that the music is reflective and Pontians remember their lost homeland. Small groups nestle together around a table , where the only instrument, the lyra, is accompanied by the voices of it’s ancestors, singing the last songs before heading home. This is a Parakath.