March 25th is Greek Independence Day

Greeks Celebrate Freedom and Annunciation (What’s that?)

A Quick Introduction to Greece
OPA! The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic. This breathtaking country has thousands of islands, including places such as Mykonos and Santorini. As one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, it is home to the well-known Mount Olympus, which has more than 50 peaks. The highest of these peaks is an impressive 9570’. You get the idea – it’s majestic! Today, Greece is an independent republic, full of indescribable natural beauty and cultural pride – but it wasn’t always that way.

Santorini, Greece – Source: socawlege.com

March 25th – A Very Big Day
March 25th is a dual national holiday in Greece, important for both historical and religious reasons. It is known as Greek Independence Day, and also Annunciation Day.

What is Greek Independence Day?
Greek Independence Day marks the start of the War of Greek Independence. The war began nearly 200 years ago, on March 25th 1821, freeing Greece from Ottoman rule. The Ottoman Empire is also known as the Turkish Empire (or what would become modern-day Turkey). This fight for freedom brought an end to 400 long years of oppression, as well as the return of the land now known as modern-day Greece.

Battle Scene, Greek War of Independence by Georg Perlberg

What is Annunciation Day?
Annunciation Day is a day when the Greek Orthodox Church observes the “Celebration of the Annunciation.” Annunciation means announcement, and more specifically in Christianity, it is the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she was to give birth to the son of God. Interestingly, for Greeks given the names Evangelos, Evangelina, – and names originating from these – such as Evan, Eva, Vangelis, Angelo, Angela, or even Angie, it’s particularly special, because in Greek, “Evangelisimos” means annunciation. So, for all the Angelas out there, Happy Angie Day!

Annunciation Mosaic – Source: thegreekcathedral.com

How is Greek Independence Day celebrated?
In Greece, it is a public holiday, and many go to church in the morning to celebrate the Annunciation, and then go to a memorial service to mark Greek Independence. On this day, parades featuring Greek flags, people dressed in traditional clothing, and marching bands, take place all over Greece. Freedom and Annunciation come together on this day, acknowledging that during the time of Ottoman rule, it was the Greek Orthodox Church that helped Greeks in captivity to guard their faith, traditions, language, and culture.

Independence Day Parade Toronto, 2015 – Source: greekreporter.com

Interesting Facts about Greek Independence and the Flag
1. Theo and Gio are Heroes
Theodoros Kolokotronis and Giorgos Karaiskakis are revolutionary heroes in Greek history who led the fight for Greece’s freedom in 1821.

2. Wearing Pompoms and Pleats
The distinct costume of white leggings and pleated skirts with pompom shoes was the traditional military uniform worn by elite soldiers during the battle against the Turks. The skirt has a whopping 400 pleats, each representing one year of suffering. The uniform is called an “Evzonoi.” Today, the Evzonoi is worn for traditional dance performances.

3. Traditional Food on Independence Day
On this day, Greeks everywhere enjoy crispy, fried cod with a garlic sauce called “bakaliaros skordalia.” While March 25th is during Lent, and fish would not normally be served, the Orthodox Church makes an exception for Annunciation.

4. Freedom and the Flag
The stripes on the flag of blue and white are said to represent the battle cry, “Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος!”, which means “Freedom or Death!” At The Flag Shop, we get excited about flag design history and details, and we also know the blue stripes symbolize freedom and the white, death.

5. The Hymn of Freedom – 158 Verses
The Greek national anthem, called “Hymn to Freedom” was originally a famous poem written by Dionysios Solomos. The poem contains a total of 158 verses! Only the first 24 verses are used in the Greek national anthem.

Greek Military Uniform – Source: allthatsinteresting.com

Where to Get Your Greek Flags?
We thought you’d never ask! All of our Flag Shop locations across Canada carry Greek flags in all sizes! We also have lapel pins, vinyl decals, car flags, pennant strings, paper flags, and crests. We are here to help you celebrate all things Greek! Be sure to let us know if you need a specific item, because you might be surprised to see what we can dig up in our warehouse.

Happy Greek Independence and Annunciation Day!

Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος!

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