For the better part of a decade, my family’s Thanksgiving morning ritual began with someone popping our worn-out “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” DVD into the DVD player. The movie looped throughout the day as we cooked, with the bickering of Maria Portokalos and Aunt Voula mimicking the sounds of my mom and aunts as we argued for counter space in the kitchen. By early afternoon, someone would make the 100th comment of the day about how similar Greek music is to Georgian music. And finally, when we sat down to dinner — with the movie still on — the hilarity of my family beat out any of the ridiculousness we so loved in our Greek counterparts.
Gus Portokalos’s obsession with the “healing” powers of Windex aside, we were convinced the Portokalos family was all of us.
It’s been 13 years since the movie was released, turning into a true word-of-mouth hit before viral was even a concept. The hit earned an Oscar nomination and a special place in my heart forever. So when I found out there would be a sequel, I penciled the March 25, 2016, opening day as a national holiday on my calendar.
It’s a testament to writer and actress Nia Vardalos’s talent for writing a script so witty, yet so true to life, that every ethnic family finds some way to relate to it. Jewish, Georgian, Indian — you name it, everyone sees themselves in the doting, loving, in-your-face nosiness of the Portokalos clan. But for Jews in particular (and in my case, Georgian Jews) the movie hits close to home.
They show love through food? Check.
They want you to find yourself a good boy or girl to marry? Check.
“We don’t think you heard us. Make us grandparents NOW!”
They have their roots in the classic American story of hard working immigrant parents wanting the best for their children without them losing touch with their heritage? Check.
The first generation’s anxiety and panic-ridden fear at the prospect of disappointing their parents? Check, check, check.
Some of my favorite memories with my own family has been spent with the Portokalos family and by Thanksgiving next year, we’ll have a second film to watch on loop in the Efrem home.
And if the first DVD is too scratched, it’s okay, we’ll put some Windex on it.
Maia Efrem is the former research editor and assistant to the editor and was also responsible for the Forward’s annual Salary Survey. Previously she served as the editor of Blognik Beat, a blog written by students who emigrated from or have ties to the Former Soviet Union. Maia is a graduate of Hunter College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Why 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' Is Every Jewish Family Ever