"We live in America, we're enriched with all ethnic cultures, and Armenians are part of it," said Father Moushegh Tashjian, the church's archpriest reverend. "It's like a beautiful tapestry. We like to share our culture, you know. Food, music, folk dance, traditions, we like to share some of it with our neighbors. We like to involve all of our neighbors and share our beautiful heritage and culture."
The cheese boreg is just one of the traditional treats that will be shared during the festival Oct. 10. Homemade, stuffed grape leaves, lamb shish kebab, chicken shish kebab, rice pilaf, beef luleh kebab, gyro sandwiches and lahmajoun, which is meat and spices on a thin crust of dough, will all be part of the festival. And that doesn't even include the deserts. The women will be making baklava, konafa and all sorts of other sweet pastries. There will also be food vendors, traditional folk dance and imported Armenian beer.
"We do a community outreach," said Claudette Mekalian, chairwoman lady of the Lady Society. "We want to share our Armenian culture with the community."
Last year, about 800 people showed up, exceeding the church's expectation of 500. This year, the women said they are doubling how much food will be available so they don't run out because they expect 1,000 attendees.
"We call it food fellowship," Tashjian said, laughing. "When you have good, tasty, delicious food, people enjoy the company, it makes you want to stay longer and share stories."
One of the stories shared with people is about the church's history in Orange County, Tashjian said. Twenty-five years ago, a group of young Armenian men got together to play soccer. They then wanted to start something to bring Armenian families together in worship. The church belongs to the Armenian Christian Orthodox branch, which is one of the oldest churches in the world.
The group held monthly services in a Newport Beach church until they were able to buy the land on which St. Mary stands today.
If You Go
What: Second annual St. Mary Armenian Festival and Food Fair
When: Noon to 7 p.m. Oct. 10
Where: St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, 148 E. 22nd St., Costa Mesa
Cost: Entrance is free. Lamb and chicken dishes are $15 each.