SOCIETY

The Saint Andrew?s Society of Athens

The Saint Andrew?s Society of Athens is a charitable organization that promotes Scottish heritage in Greece and extends an invitation to all those who are interested in joining. Its membership mainly comprises Scottish expats but also includes people of other international backgrounds.

The Saint Andrew?s Society of Athens was founded in 1989 by a group of individuals in response to the growing popularity of Scottish dance evenings which they had been hosting. This, coupled with the goal of launching of an annual Burns Supper, resulted in their establishment of a committee as part of the society?s organizational structure and designated the role of chieftain as their head. These efforts culminated in the appointment of their first chieftain, Jim Leonard. Through coordinated planning, the St Andrew?s Society held its first Burns Supper on February 1, 1990.

Due to the enthusiasm expressed by the expat community for the Burns Supper and the Scottish dance evenings, the organization continued to grow, with its annual events expanding to include the St Andrew?s Ball, the Burns Supper and the Chieftain?s Evening. These three annual functions each embody very different aspects.

The St Andrew?s Ball is a formal gala with a Scottish band and piper, who are flown in for the event. The evening further features a four-course dinner and Scottish dancing. The ball is hosted annually at the InterContinental Hotel at the end of November. To facilitate their charitable goals, the ball incorporates a raffle with associated prizes, which are donated by a number of companies and individuals and have included trips from Louis Cruises as well as airline tickets from Virgin Atlantic and Olympic Air, among others.

The Burns Supper, which is held in recognition of the life and work of Robert Burns, Scotland?s national poet, features a three-course dinner, speeches by guest speakers, songs written by Burns, poetry reading, solos by a piper and Scottish dancing. The supper is held around the end of January every year as the poet was born on January 25.

A crucial component of both the St Andrew?s Ball and the Burns Supper is the presentation of the haggis, the national dish of Scotland. After the first course is finished, the haggis is brought into the room in a procession-like manner, escorted by flaming swords and accompanied by a Scottish piper. An individual then recites a poem written by Burns in honor of the haggis. Finally, the haggis is toasted with whisky and everyone rises in its honor.

The Chieftain?s Evening is an informal event held annually in the spring and features local food and drinks accompanied by Scottish and modern dancing. This year?s Chieftain?s Evening is scheduled for Friday, May 13, at the Christos Taverna in Halandri.

For anyone interested in attending any of the events but unfamiliar with Scottish dancing, there are free Scottish dance sessions on the first Wednesday of every month at the St Catherine’s British Embassy School in Lykovrisi.

Although the society promotes Scottish heritage through its events, the main mission of the organization is charitable in nature. The society has set a goal of raising 10,000 euros annually to disperse to a variety of Greek charities. Over the past two decades, the focus of the society?s charitable aspirations has varied and in recent years has been aimed at benefiting disabled and disadvantaged youngsters in Greece. It is important to note that the mission of the St Andrew?s Society is attained through the combined efforts of its sponsors and members as well as guest donations.

As the society looks toward the future, it hopes to continue to celebrate Scottish heritage while effecting positive change through charitable activities directed at those who are in the most need. With the demographics of the Scottish expat community within Greece growing older and diminishing in numbers, the St Andrew?s Society recognizes the importance of encouraging the development of the identity of the society within the Greek community. This has become an initiative which it hopes will result in the integration of more Greeks within the society.

In an interview with Kathimerini English Edition, the current chieftain of the St Andrew?s Society, Nicoll Clark, offered some suggestions for individuals who are moving to Greece. Clark, who came to Greece from London in 1991, recommends that newcomers focus on the community pages provided by local publications and use the Internet as a tool for locating events and organizations. He also suggested that expats may find a useful resource in their local embassy, which can often provide a list of expat organizations, events and schools. Clark summed it up with the suggestion for newcomers to ?go out and try everything and you will eventually find your mark.?

Those interested in joining the the Saint Andrew?s Society of Athens or finding out more about the charities it supports and the events it hosts should visit www.standrewssociety.gr or e-mail [email protected]