March 25th Independence Day, 200 Years Of Freedom 1821-2021

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

 The largest holiday of the Hellenic nation, Independence Day, is celebrated annually in Greece on March 25. This day commemorates the beginning of the Greek War of Independence (1821-1832). This historical event led to the gradual exit from the centuries-old Ottoman oppressive domination and the fulfillment of the Greek people's dream of freedom and national unity.

 March 25 also has a religious significance, as it coincides with the great Christian feast of the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary ("Theotokos", "the God-Bearer") and informed her that she was the one who would give birth to Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God. On this day, many Greeks will go to church in the morning to attend the holy liturgy, followed by a memorial service for the nation's heroes.

 Greece's National Day is celebrated sumptuously in Athens and major cities across the country. Patriotic speeches, wreath-laying ceremonies, parades, and military demonstrations are held in a solemn atmosphere. In the Capital, thousands of residents and tourists are enthusiastically watching the great parade of marching troops, military vehicles, and squadrons of the Greek Armed Forces, held in the presence of the President and other officials.

 In Crete, there are also festivities dedicated to the Greek Independence Day. Towns and villages organize flag parades with children dressed in traditional folk costumes or school uniforms. In the old port of the capital Heraklion, an immense blue-white Greek flag waving over the walls of Koules Fortress is the pride and delight of locals. The shops in the city sell pennants to visitors, while in each household a flag is hoisted at the door or window.

 Cretan elders dressed in traditional clothes of revolution warriors inherited from their forefathers open the parade, as a sign of honor for past generations. 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 attend the parade. A spectacular part of the Independence Day tradition is the Air Force demonstration in which fighter jets perform aerial stunts, fly close to the ground, or spread 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.

 This year, Greece marks 200 years from the outbreak of the War of Independence, an important historical step that led to the birth of the modern Greek nation. The two days of special celebrations will be attended by dignitaries from Britain, Russia, and France - the great powers that provided assistance to the nation's bid for independence from the Ottoman Empire as well as official delegates from other European Union countries.

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

Some photos from parades around Greece:

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