New York.- The newly-appointed Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Alexandros Mallias, and his wife, Francoise-Anne, will join the friends of Athens’ Gennadius Library on March 6 to celebrate “Clean Monday” (“Kathari Deftera”) at Estiatorio Milos in New York City to mark the end of Carnival and the beginning of the Lenten season. The benefit will celebrate the Library’s 80th Anniversary and will feature special Clean Monday cuisine prepared under the direction of Milos’ famed Costas Spiliades. The 2006 Zagat Survey states, “If you can’t get to Mount Olympus this spectacular Midtown Greek seafooder is the next best peak.”
For Greek families, Clean Monday is one of the most festive holidays of the year. Often coinciding with the first hints of spring, when almond trees and mimosas burst into bloom, the day lures children and their parents into the countryside to fly kites and to feast on special fare at local tavernas. Cuttlefish stewed in wine, rice pilaf with mussels, varieties of bean stews and salads, squid stuffed with spinach and rice, Lenten dolmades and halva, and the once-a-year appearance of lagana, a yeastless bread, make up just a portion of the unique tastes of the day, often accompanied by joyous music and dancing. Since 2001, the Gennadius Library has brought the celebration of this uniquely Greek holiday to New York City.
The Gennadius Library is one of the world’s most important centers for the study of Greek culture and civilization, thanks to its rich collection of books and archives on all aspects of post-antique Hellenism. The Clean Monday celebration aims to raise awareness and funds for the multi-year campaign for renovation, expansion, and endowment of the Library. Six years ago, the Library completed a $2.5 million renovation and underground expansion to the historic Main Building. Last January, the President of Greece, H. E. Mr. Constantinos Stephanopoulos, presided at the inauguration of the 370-seat Cotsen Hall and the renovated East Wing of the Library, part of an additional $5.5 million expansion.
The success of the campaign so far has been made possible through the generosity of many individuals, corporations and foundations. Among them are Lloyd E. Cotsen, Chairman of the Gennadius Library Board; KOSMOCAR, S.A.; Elaine and Ted Athanassiades; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the A. G. Leventis Foundation; the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation; the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Board is currently raising funds for remodeling the Library’s West Wing and for renovating its gardens.
Opened in 1926, the Gennadius Library houses the collection of diplomat and bibliophile, John Gennadius, who presented some 26,000 volumes and archives to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens to house and to make accessible to the public. In the eighty years since the Library opened its doors, the School has added 86,000 volumes, the collection spanning the breadth of post-antique Hellenic civilization. It was Gennadius’ hope that the Library would “become a world center for the study of Greek history, literature and art, both ancient, Byzantine, and modern.”
The Clean Monday party at Estiatorio Milos, located at 125 West 55th Street, will begin at 6:30 with a buffet of traditional Clean Monday foods and a selection of fine Greek wines. Grigoris Maninakis and the Mikrokosmos Ensemble will present music of Hadzidakis, Theodorakis, and others followed by an evening of dancing and singing. Guests will receive a bottle of Greek wine from the highly-rated portfolio of Sotiris Bafitis Selections, along with a copy of the newly-published Women in the Athenian Agora, by Susan I. Rotroff and Robert D. Lamberton. Open-seating tickets are $225 per person and must be reserved and paid for in advance. In addition, a limited number of reserved tables are available. Reserve early as space is limited. For invitations, tickets and information, call the U.S. office of the Gennadius Library at (609) 683-0800 ext. 14.