NORTH SYRACUSE — After a year of confusion and isolation, St. Mary’s Egyptian Festival is making a return to bring the community together once again.
St. Mary and St. Mina Coptic Orthodox Church in North Syracuse is holding its fifth annual Egyptian Festival, adding a third day to unite and celebrate Coptic culture. The festival will take place Friday, July 23; Saturday, July 24; and Sunday, July 25.
“The main purpose of the festival is to get the community around us to know who we are and to give them a fun day, a taste of our heritage and our food,” Father Kyrillos Sadek, the priest at St. Mary and St. Mina, said. “Of course, fundraising helps as well, but that to me is not really the main goal. The main goal is more like an open house to invite the community to know more about us.”
The festival last took place in 2019. According to Fr. Kyrillos, the event was successful and attendance had been growing steadily since the festival’s 2016 debut. He hopes this year’s return will bring a similar turnout, especially after the hardships and isolation the world has endured this past year.
“We’re trying to get the word out more, so that people know more about the event. I think people this year are excited to feel that things are beginning to return back to normal. I think last year was a tough year for everyone, so I’m hoping that sense of normalcy comes back to some level,” Fr. Kyrillos said.
COVID-19 changed church operations immensely. For two months, the church was forced to shut down entirely after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of measures to slow the spread of the virus on March 20, 2020. To keep New Yorkers inside, Cuomo ordered the closures of all nonessential businesses and gatherings, including religious congregations. The Coptic Church was not able to celebrate Easter as one, a culturally significant holiday larger than Christmas within the church.
“We had to shut down on the feast day and we couldn’t pray at mass or services. We were praying online, but basically online is different. I mean, people come for the fellowship and so on,” Fr. Kyrillos said, adding that Sunday school was also paused and moved online. “It’s not ideal at all. We used to be able to visit people who are in their homes, have fellowship events, and trips and a community, but all of this was suspended because of COVID.”
While the festival allows the church to fundraise for itself, Fr. Kyrillos says that it is more about allowing the congregation to unite and gain a stronger sense of belonging. He hopes to see the Coptic and local communities enjoy their time learning about Coptic culture and traditions together. The event will be accessible online via a YouTube livestream and in-person.
“Fundraising is not the main thing. We’re doing it more for the communities to know about us, and for our community to get closer together. When you have a common goal, working towards it helps strengthen the bonds,” Fr. Kyrillos said.
St. Mary’s Egyptian Festival takes place from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 23; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 24; and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 25, at St. Mary and St. Mina Coptic Orthodox Church, located 106 Church St. in North Syracuse. Visit stmarystminacopticchurch.org/egyptfest.html for more information or to order food online.