Greek Independence Day March 16, 2014 00:00

Greek Independence Day is celebrated every year in Greece on March 25th commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821. Prior to 1821, the Ottoman Turks governed Greece for close to 400 years, subjecting the country to crushing and arbitrary tax burdens and its peasants to serfdom. Under Turkish rule, Greece was very poor and poorly run.

The year of 1821 began years of violence and bloody massacres until finally in 1833, Greeks vigorously rose up against the Ottoman Empire embarking on the ultimately successful war of independence. Bishop Germanos of Patras proudly raised the Greek flag at the monastery of Agia Lavra, inciting the Peloponnese to rise against the oppressors. While the exact date was most likely not March 25th, it did occur in late March and it was eventually associated with the Greek Orthodox Church’s Feast of the Annunciation. Feast of the Annunciation is in honor of when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the son of God.

All of these celebrations keep the streets of Greece packed with people and roads will be blocked off in many of the towns and villages. Some of them will celebrate by holding a school flag parade where children march in traditional Greek costumes and carry Greek flags. Athens holds their annual Armed Forces Parade on the same day. Tanks, military vehicles and men and women of the armed forces, march in the streets and celebrate freedom.

The Greek National Anthem can be heard playing throughout Greece on Independence Day. The anthem began as a poem written by Zakynthian Island poet Dionysios Solomos and speaks of the power and virtues of freedom. It was reportedly completed in one month. The poem was written in 1823, and set to music in 1828. The music was written by Nikolaos Mantzaros from the neighboring island of Corfu or better knows as Kerkyra. In 1864 this poem was adapted into the National Anthem. As in the U.S., the anthem is played during the raising and lowering of the national flag, on official occasions, and at the end of every closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. Hear the Greek National Anthem and read the lyrics in both Greek and English.