When I met my Greek-American husband-to-be in 1965, everything from the food he ate to the church services he attended seemed foreign to me. One of our first dates was at a small Greek nightclub in Seattle, pulsing with the exotic sound of bouzouki music. We nibbled on unidentifiable tidbits and drank a strange wine called retsina. When we became engaged in 1966, I wanted a single book to grasp the basics of Greek-American living. Such a book did not exist. So my early years of marriage required considerable adjustment. I had been raised a Lutheran in Spokane, Washington, and was of French and English descent. This new culture mystified me. Over time, however, I began to love many aspect of Greek-American life: the closeness of the family, the reverence in Orthodox worship, reading The Iliad by Homer and relishing Easter bread and olive oil.

In 1993 I wrote this book to welcome people of non-Greek ancestry to this rich heritage and help them appreciate Greek traditions and customs. To my surprise, people of Greek descent have also found the book useful. My research included gathering oral histories from a group of American women of Greek heritage as well as additional studies and interviews. My B. A. in history from American University and work at The Atlantic Monthly magazine, public television and the Discovery Channel provided useful skills.

My life has been blessed (ptou, ptou-see p. 202). We have two children, Larry (Eleftherios) and Mary who were named after my husband's parents per an oral agreement early in the dating process. Larry and Mary are married and have given us four grandchildren. It has also been my privilege to serve on the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, be involved in its interfaith marriage project and Center for Family Care at St. Basil's Academy. I also care deeply about the Holy Land Christians and help their cause in various ways. My husband and I enjoy traveling to many parts of the world, including frequent trips to Greece where most of my husband's family still lives.

If you decide to buy this book and are a cradle Greek Orthodox, I hope you will find new understanding and appreciation of your heritage. For individuals who were not born into this heritage, I say, "welcome!" This book will explain that the Orthodox Christian message embraces you with love and warmth. The Hellenic tradition invites you to share its universal heritage. Isocrates, a Greek orator in the fourth and fifth centuries BC stated in Panegyrikos (Encomium of Athens): "The name 'Hellenes' suggests no longer a race, but a way of thinking, and. . . the title 'Hellenes' is applied rather to those who share our culture than those who share our blood."

In this spirit, everyone is invited to celebrate these remarkable customs and traditions.

-- Marilyn Rouvelas