March 25th Independence Day, Lighting the Flame of Freedom / Video

Greece's National Day, a date that marks the birth of the modern Greek nation

 The most significant national holiday in Greece is celebrated each year on March 25, marking the anniversary of the Greek War of Independence (1821-1832). This pivotal moment in history  holds great significance of the gradual liberation of Greece from Ottoman control and the realization of the Greek people's long-cherished aspirations for freedom and national unity, ending centuries of oppression.

 Moreover, Christians celebrate this day with great importance as it marks the feast of the Annunciation. According to Christian belief, on this day, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary (also known as "Theotokos," or the "God-Bearer"), and revealed to her that she was chosen to give birth to Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God. It is a holy day where many Greeks attend church in the morning to participate in the sacred liturgy, followed by a memorial service to honor their national heroes.

Greece's National Day is widely celebrated in Athens and major cities throughout the country with a variety of patriotic activities. These include solemn ceremonies for laying wreaths, speeches, military demonstrations, and parades. One of the largest events takes place in Athens, where thousands of residents and tourists gather to watch marching troops, military vehicles, and squadrons of the Greek Armed Forces in a spectacular display of national pride. The event is attended by high-ranking officials, including the President of Greece.

 In Crete, there are lively celebrations held in honor of Greek Independence Day. In towns and villages, colorful flag parades are organized, featuring children dressed in traditional folk costumes or school uniforms. One of the highlights of the festivities is the stunning sight of an immense blue and white Greek flag waving over the walls of Koules Fortress in the old port of the capital city of Heraklion. The locals take great pride in this symbol of their heritage, and visitors can purchase pennants from the city's shops to show their support. It is also a common tradition for households to hoist a flag at their door or window during this time.

 On Independence Day, a beautiful parade takes place in Crete that honors past generations. The parade is opened by Cretan elders dressed in traditional clothes of revolution warriors inherited from their forefathers . The parade is attended by Army divisions, different schools with flags, groups of athletes from the sports clubs and young scouts of Crete, Heraklion music band, and even groups of people from other areas of Greece in their traditional costumes. One of the most spectacular parts of the parade is the Air Force demonstration, which features fighter jets performing aerial stunts, flying close to the ground, or spreading colors in the Cretan sky.

"Freedom or Death!" - the Revolution Cry became the Motto of the Greek Modern Nation

 Since the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, Greek territories have been part of the Ottoman Empire for almost 400 years. Despite the persecutions and humiliations, the Greeks went through, their language, religion, and sense of identity remained strong and their desire for freedom and bloody sacrifice was passed down from one generation to the next.

 The Greek revolt was precipitated on March 25, 1821, when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of the revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavras, inciting the Peloponnese to rise up against the oppressors. Derived from Greek songs of resistance, the phrase ”Eleftheria I Thanatos” ("Freedom or Death") became the slogan of the dramatic riots that lasted almost ten years, known as the "Greek War of Independence".

 By 1827, forces from Russia, Great Britain, and France entered the conflict, helping the Greeks drive the Turkish forces away from the Peloponnese Peninsula. Independence was finally granted by the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832 when a small territory of Greece was recognized as a free country. But for the Turks, it was just the beginning of the long process of withdrawing control and domination over the islands, which would come to an end much later, after about a century.

 The struggle for the liberation of all the lands inhabited by the Greeks continued. Crete was liberated in 1897, and on December 1, 1913, the Union of Crete with Greece was finally achieved. Known in the West as "Freedom or Death", Nikos Kazantzakis's heroic novel "Captain Michalis" dedicated to his father, is a story inspired by childhood memories of the rebellion of Greek Christians against the Turks on the island of Crete, towards the end of its history as an Ottoman province.

 The motto "Freedom or Death" reflecting the determination of the Greek people against tyranny and oppression has become the leitmotif of the National Anthem we know today. Popularly called "blue and white" (“Galanólefki” sounding like a feminine epithet referring to Motherland), the flag officially recognized by Greece as one of its national symbols in 1978, dates back to 1822 (a year after the new state declared independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821). The flag theme consists of nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white and a white cross on a blue background in the upper left corner.

 Traditionally, the belief is that the nine stripes represent the nine syllables of the Revolution slogan “Eleftheria I Thanatos” / “Freedom or Death”,  though some say they are meant to symbolize the nine letters of the Greek word ”freedom”. The colors symbolize the sky and the sea – two things important to the Greek economy and culture - while the cross represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the official religion of the Greek nation, and a key factor of national unity and identity across times.

 In 2021, Greece celebrated the bicentennial of the War of Independence that led to the birth of the modern Greek nation. The momentous occasion was marked with a two-day celebration attended by dignitaries from the UK, Russia, and France - the great powers that assisted Greece in its bid for independence from the Ottoman Empire. Official delegates from other European Union nations were also in attendance to commemorate this significant event.

Long Live Greece!  Chronia Polla Ellada !  Χρόνια Πολλά Ελλάδα!

Some photos from parades around Greece:

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