The Greek community in Brookline and Newton is well on its way to raising $10,000 to support pediatric cardiac care at Boston Children’s Hospital.
An annual New Year’s Day sing-a-long called “kalanda” has raised over $9,000 for the Boston Children’s Hospital Hellenic Cardiac Fund, which helps poor Greek children in need of serious operations.
The event, which features Greek songs celebrating the promise of the new year, marked its 40th anniversary this year, and its first held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 60 people gathered over Zoom on Friday to celebrate four decades of caroling for a cause dear to their hearts.
“It is reminiscent of my childhood,” said Manny Paraschos of Newton, who grew up in Athens and participated in kalanda there.
Paraschos helped to organize this year’s event that featured live singing, pre-recorded performances, and videos from previous years. Usually, participants go door-to-door singing carols and getting donations.
However, COVID-19 prevented the group from performing in person this year, so they turned to Meletios Pouliopoulos, president of Greek Cultural Resources, a nonprofit based in New Hampshire, to host the kalanda on Zoom.
Despite having to go virtual, Paraschos said the event was “fabulous.”
“It was great to have so many people — some old, some young — recalling the start of the event 40 years ago,” Paraschos said. “And to be able to see each other 40 years later, now with their own kids, helping such a worthy cause.”
During the event Dr. Nicolaos Madias explained that the kalanda tradition in Newton and Brookline was inspired by his late mother-in-law on Thanksgiving Day 40 years ago. His family and friends were discussing ways to pass their Greek traditions on to the next generation when his mother-in-law jumped in and said, “What about the kalanda?”
“And all of us had grown with this cherished tradition, going to the homes of our neighbors in our little streets in the villages and how much joy [we] were deriving from greeting them and then getting some kind of a sweet or a little coin,” Madias said. “And we thought that this would be terrific to really transplant to the next generation.”
And so the local kalanda tradition was born, “and the rest is of course history,” Madias said.
Over the years, the group has raised an estimated $120,000 for the fund. This year, the group hopes to raise $10,000 by the end of February to contribute to the hospital’s online fund-raising campaign.
Bess Pappas, who founded the cardiac fund with her husband, also spoke during the event and said that the fund has helped more than 2,000 Greek children, and for many it is often “their last hope for survival.”
The kalanda has been an important part of the fund’s success, Pappas said.
“We could not have done it without the common goal of the Greek community and works of the heart as the kalanda, the wonderful volunteers of the kalanda that bring music to our ears and bring help to their children,” Pappas said.
Adam Sennott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.