2015-03-25 / Editorials

Greeks Honor Their Independence

March 25 will mark the 194th year of Greek Independence. For tens of thousands of Greeks in New York City and for millions around the country and globe, the event will mark a day of festivities, food, music and most importantly, family. The annual parade up Fifth Avenue from 64th to 79th Streets will be attended by thousands and watched by millions on television on Sunday, March 29.

The origin of Greek Independence Day dates back to 1821, when the Greeks rose up against the Ottoman Empire, which had occupied Greece for nearly 400 years. The first incident of protest that sparked the beginning of the Greek independence movement occurred at the monastery of Agia Lavras, when Bishop Germanos of Patras boldly raised the Greek flag inciting the Peloponnese to rise against their oppressors.

The movement for an independent Greek nation began in Odessa in 1814, when three wealthy businessmen, Athanasios Tsakalof, Emmanuel Xanthos and Nikolaos Skoufas founded a Greek independence party called the Philiki Etairia or Friendly Society. The message of the society spread quickly and branches opened throughout Greece. Members met in secret and came from all walks of life. These businessmen used their money and influence to purchase armaments, which were then distributed among freedom fighters. Many others contributed to the revolution as well. Aristocratic young men, recipients of a classical education, were willing to fight to liberate the country whose culture had inspired them and their life’s work. Philhellenes included Victor Hugo, author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables, Alfred de Musset, and English poet Lord Byron, who, after arriving in Messolongi, an important center of resistance in January 1824, died three months later of pneumonia.

Greek Independence Day is an occasion that involves not only Greeks, but is for all people, regardless of culture or faith, who celebrate freedom. Like any other day of independence, it is a time of thanksgiving and celebration of the possibilities of the future that would not otherwise have been possible.

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