OXI DAY – 28 October

Written by Marisa Hazakis

Όχι Day, celebrated on the 28th October every year in Greece, Cyprus and Hellenic communities around the world, commemorates the beginning of the Greco-Italian war.

On this day in 1940, the Greek Prime Minister, Ioannis Metaxas, received an ultimatum in the early hours of the morning from Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. It demanded that Greece allow Axis (Italian) forces free passage to enter and occupy Greek territory or otherwise face war. The motivation behind the ultimatum was an attempt to impress his ally, Adolf Hitler, by securing what was thought to be an easy victory and expanding his fascist regime.

hitler-greece

Ioannis Metaxas. Source: Metaxas Project

After reading the letter, Metaxas responded in French (the official diplomatic language at the time) with the historic phrase, “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Well, this means war!), taking his stance against Italian demands. Word of the refusal soon spread to the Greek press, with the word όχι (no) sprawled across newspapers headlines and in the following days, the Greek population flooded the streets, shouting “ΌΧΙ as they prepared for war.

greek-battalion-WWII

Greek locals marching against fascist rule. Source: Greek Reporter

Less than two hours after the ultimatum was rejected, the Italian forces attacked the Greek-Albanian border. Here, they not only had to contend with the mountainous terrain of the Pindos Mountains, but were also met with unexpectedly tenacious resistance from the Greek army, who fought tooth and nail to defend its autonomy. Although outnumbered, the Greek Army turned out to be a formidable force, holding back the Axis forces from entering Greece for almost six months. Greece was admired worldwide for standing up to the Axis powers with success, giving the rest of the world hope that the Axis could in fact be defeated. It was at this time that Winston Churchill famously said, “Hence, we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”

Winston Churchill, quote, Greek, celebrity

Winston Churchill. Source: Wallhere

For many, Όχι Day is more than just an anniversary commemorated with parades of schoolchildren, military grandstanding and flag waving. It is a day to remember Hellenic values, passion and filotimo and the courageous deeds and words of those who fought for Greece with their flesh and blood. It is a day that represents bravery, solidarity and heroism for millions of Greeks all around the world.

 

Sources

  • OXI DAY IN ATHENS – 28TH OCTOBER | Why Athens City Guide. Why Athens. (2020). Retrieved 27 October 2020, from https://whyathens.com/events/oxi-day-athens/.
  • Commemorating ‘Oxi Day’ October 28, 1940 – Greek City Times. Greek City Times. (2020). Retrieved 27 October 2020, from https://greekcitytimes.com/2019/10/28/commemorating-oxi-day-october-28-1940/.
  • Significance of Oxi Day on October 28 in Greece. Livingingreece.gr. (2020). Retrieved 27 October 2020, from http://livingingreece.gr/2007/10/28/october-28/.
  • Italy invades Greece. HISTORY. (2020). Retrieved 27 October 2020, from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/italy-invades-greece.
  • Rouvelas, Marilyn, and George Papaioannou. A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America. Nea Attiki Press, 2002.

25th of March: What’s it all about?

Written by Marisa Hazakis

As a child, the 25th of March meant one thing to me: dressing up in an “embarrassing” costume on a boiling hot day and memorising Greek poems. However, as I grow older (and wiser), the 25th of March is a chance for me to fall in love with my culture over and over again.

In 2017, NAHYSOSA and its Affiliates met in Bloemfontein for our annual Executive Congress, which just so happened to coincide with the community’s 25th of March Celebrations. Watching our friends still reciting poems at the ripe old age of 26 and 27, alongside the 6 and 7 year old children, we laughed as we reminisced our own childhoods. Even though very few of us grew up together, we all had a story to share about being forced by our mothers to stand up on stage in front of a room full of yiayiathes and pappouthes and sing-song Greek Independence poems. And this is just one of the million reasons why I love being Greek; we share a connection in almost every sphere of our lives.

The 25th of March, one of the most important Greek holidays, is actually a double celebration. Firstly, we celebrate the Annunciation of the Mother of God and secondly, Greek Independence from Ottoman rule.

Annunciation by Fra Angelico

Luke 1: 26-35

 

The Annunciation, also called Evangelismos, commemorates the day that Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, exactly nine months before Christmas, and announced that she would conceive and bear the Son of God, Jesus Christ. A Divine Liturgy always commemorates this major feast day and even though the Annunciation falls during Great Lent, fish may be eaten, traditionally bacaliaros (cod) and skordialia (garlic dip). On this day we also celebrate the namedays of Evangelos and Evangelia.

 

 

 

The 25th of March also signifies the day that Greece declared independence from the Ottoman Empire and subjugation since the fall of Constantinopole in 1453. Despite almost 400 years of occupation, Greeks retained their culture and religion. Revolutionary unrest had been growing for some time, and so by 1821 Bishop Germanos of Patras, credited as the first to declare Greece free, raised the Greek flag over the monastery of Ayia Lavra and declared “Eleftheria i Thanatos” (Freedom or Death).

Archbishop Germanos

Inspired by the Greek war of Independence, Dionysios Solomos, wrote the Greek national anthem, Imnos is tin Eleftheria (Hymn to Freedom) in 1823. It is the longest national anthem in the world, consisting of 158 stanzas and is used as the anthem for both Greece and Cyprus.

Greek National Anthem

Greeks worldwide celebrate this day with a traditional Independence Day flag parade. Children dress up in traditional costumes and recite patriotic poems in Greek. While costumes vary from region to region, the most common are a foustanela (a white skirt with a pleat for every year of occupation) and tsarouhia (red shoes with pom poms) for boys and an Amalia dress for girls.

Children dressed up in traditional costumes for Independence Day parade

 

OXI DAY: 28 October

Infographic and information compiled by NAHYSOSA Editor, Eugenia Papathanasiou.