2016-03-23 / Editorials

Celebrating Greece’s Independence

March 25 marks the 195th anniversary of Greek Independence. For New York City’s multitudes of proud residents of Hellenic origin (many calling Astoria home) Friday’s festivities will include heaps of delicious food, music from the Greek Isles, and family gatherings. This year Greek-Americans and Philhellenes will enjoy their annual parade. The big, colorful, 78th Greek Independence Day Parade steps up 5th Avenue on Sunday, April 10, at 1:30 pm. From 64th to 79th Streets, some 100,000 spectators will again revel in this display of thousands of marchers, colorful costumes, lively dancing, native music. It has been sponsored for the past 78 years by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, in cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its member societies. Millions more will watch the parade on television.

Not only Greeks, but people everywhere who treasure freedom should celebrate Greek Independence Day this month and later, and join the parade goers to honor the many achievements in so many fields and the philanthropy of the Greek-American community. Some historic Philhellenes include French novelist Victor Hugo and English poet Lord Byron, who died in 1824, shortly after arriving in Messolongi, an important center of resistance to the Turks. What inspired such men? As recipients of a classical education, these aristocrats were willing to fight to liberate Greece, whose culture had inspired them and their lifelong literary work.

The Ottoman Empire had occupied Greece for nearly 400 years. In 1821, the Greeks rose up against their oppressors. The movement for an independent Greek nation began in Odessa in 1814 by three wealthy businessmen, Athanasios Tsakalof, Emmanuel Xanthos and Nikolaos Skoufas. They founded a Greek Independence party called the Philiki Etairia or Friendly Society. The society’s message spread rapidly and branches opened all over Greece, with members from all walks of life meeting in secret. The businessmen’s funding and influence purchased arms that were given to freedom fighters to launch a revolution.

This year, there’s another option for celebrating Greek culture and family, in addition to Greece’s fight to triumph over oppression. Perhaps not by mere coincidence, March 25 is also the opening date of the romantic comedy, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” which returns actor/writer Nia Vardalos to the screen, joined by the entire original cast, 14 years after Nia’s mega-hit involving the hilarious episodes of an assimilated Greek- American woman and her big traditional family, her job in the family business and her wedding a non-Greek.

These editorial thoughts exemplify the Greek theatrical masks of tragedy and comedy and both sides touch all people’s lives.

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