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Bringing back the age-old tradition of the Greek Australia Day picnic

Almost every Greek Australian who grew up between the 60s and 90s will remember those picnic gatherings, where thousands of intergenerational families gathered to socialise, dance, and eat. This year the Messinians are teaming up to bring it back

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Sorrento beach, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.

25 January 2018

This weekend Greeks from all over Melbourne and Victoria will gather in sunny Sorrento to simultaneously celebrate Australia and being Greek.

The longstanding tradition is one that has taken place each summer in various locations across the state since the arrival of Greek migrants at Station Pier in the weeks following the Theofania.

It first started to give members of the Greek community a chance to take time out of their busy schedules to meet up with one another.

"Everyone would work in factories, different hours; no-one would see each other. But everyone knew Australia Day when they all had the public holiday, and the only one during summer," Paul Sougleris, committee member of the Panmessinian Brotherhood 'Papaflessas' told Neos Kosmos.

Over the years, as the children grew up, and the first generation got even older, the numbers started to dwindle. But Mr Sougleris says that interest is growing, and that's why they're looking to bring the tradition back.

"A lot of people catch up with each other on Facebook but they rarely see each other face-to-face and all at the same time. Usually it's at funerals, but this is a social occasion with decent weather, just like the old days," he said.

Former mayor of Manningham and president of the Federation of Messinian Organisations of Melbourne and Victoria, Jim Grivas shared the sentiment and says it will be a good opportunity for the second generation, and those either side, to get back in touch with their Messinian and Greek roots as a whole.

"We remember the early years of our trips to the Peninsular where 2,000 to 5,000 people turning up to these events, with two or three bands playing all day. It was a big family day outing. So we are trying to get that back with the second and third generations coming together again and bringing all their family and friends to celebrate Australia Day weekend with a Greek twist," he told Neos Kosmos.

Organised by the Pantrifylian Association of Melbourne and Victoria, the Panmessinian Brotherhood 'Papaflessas', the Society of Kalamata '23rd March', and the Panpylian Brotherhood 'Navarino', there will also be other regional groups in attendance including the Panarcadian Association of Melbourne 'O Kolokotronis' and the Nafpaktian Association of Melbourne, and the event is open to all Greeks and philhellenes.

With a hot and humid day forecast with a high of 39 °C, they are expecting a big turn out, and with a number of events taking place in the Mornington Peninsula over the long weekend, attendees are encouraged to arrive early.

Buses have been organised to accommodate those without other means of attending, and there will be live music and dancing on the day.

Keeping with the picnic theme, people can bring along their own food, and there will also be a number of cafes and eateries open in the area.

"A big thank you goes out to all the presidents and committees of all four clubs in coming together and making this picnic possible," said Mr Grivas.
"We are looking forward to a great day out with our Messinian family and friends and also the whole Greek community."

The Greek Picnic is taking place on Sunday 28 January at Sorrento Park from 8.30 am - 5.00 pm. Attendance is free. For more information, visit greekpicnic.com.au

Note: Given the high temperatures on the day, if bringing a barbecue do keep in mind any fire warnings.

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