The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos: I'm not totally Greek, but I'm Greek enough

I like to think that as human beings, we are more than the sum of our parts. And that works, too, as a collective.

Take, for instance, my place of worship, St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church. It’s not a huge community but a proud and active parish serving more than 300 Orthodox Christian families in the area. Father Alex Chetsas is warm and welcoming, and he is also well respected as Nashua Fire’s chaplain.

Father Chetsas told me he likes extending his reach and being connected to the brave men and women of the fire department and their families.

“It offers a way for my parish and me to engage the greater Nashua community,” he says.

Like most places of worship, all are welcome, and you don’t have to be Greek to be a member of St. Philip’s or attend the service or activities.

Growing up immersed in the Greek faith and culture were all my family had ever known. My brothers were altar boys in their youth, and I sang in the choir in my early teens, and we went through years of attending Greek school, speaking Greek at home, dyeing our eggs red for Easter, refraining from eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays, and having an icon corner in the home.

Our church attendance record would never win a prize, but our faith remains, and as my late father used to say: “A little church never hurt anyone.”

But one thing has had me scratching my head for the past few months — I am not sure how Greek we really are.

All it took was a quarter teaspoon of saliva in a tube and off it went to AncestryDNA, and Pandora’s box had been open.

It was a wonderful Christmas gift from my sister-in-law Nina and brother Philip. Nina thought my strong features might somehow possibly yield a Native American background, in addition to my predominantly Greek roots. I was convinced that we were at least 90 percent Greek, so I laughed at the idea of checking my ancestry but went along with it.

As we all know today, DNA testing is certainly not perfect, but it’s pretty darn accurate.

For a little background, our Greek grandparents were all born in Macedonia in Northern Greece.

Amazingly, that tiny amount of saliva pinpointed exactly where my family has ethnic roots, but the percentages are baffling.

My DNA pie chart reveals that I am 57 percent Greek, Turkish and Albanian. Another 32 percent is of Europe East and 10 percent Caucasus ethnicities.

Wow, I did not expect that, but I still enjoy my Greekness and, yes, the food.

Some say the St. Philip Greek Orthodox Food Festival reigns supreme across southern NH. The annual celebration kicks off this Friday, May 18.

Food beautifully defines a culture, and Greek cuisine brings people of all ethnicities together.

Who could resist endless pans of authentic homemade spanokopita (spinach pita), pumpkin pita, and pasticho (Greek mac’n feta dish), hundreds of pounds of meatballs, thousands of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), about 1,700 pounds of lamb and 1,000 pounds of chicken, prepared Greek style and about a hundred pans of baklava, pastries and more?

I am Greek enough, folks, and maybe some of you unknowingly possess a percentage of Hellenic heritage.

So, “Opa!” to everyone!

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at