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Greek Ochi day: “No!” in the name of freedom

Holiday: the Ochi Day (sometimes known as Ohi or Oxi Day).

 

When? On October 28.

 

Where? Greece, Cyprus.

 

The meaning and history. This is the day of the National Anniversary of Greek Independence. “Ochi” which simply means “No!” It was the answer of Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, when in October, 1940, Italy, backed by Hitler, wanted to occupy Greece. This “No” brought Greece into the war on the Allied side: after Metaxas' refusal, Italian troops attacked the Greek border. It was the beginning of Greece's participation in World War II. Indeed, at that time, Greece was Britain's only ally against Hitler.

 

The population supported their ruler. On the morning of October, 28 the Greeks took to the streets, shouting 'Ochi'. From 1942, it was celebrated as Ochi Day and became a public holiday after World War II.

 

How it is celebrated. It is a very important holiday for every Greek. Cities and towns across Greece and Cyprus celebrate Ochi Day with military parades and folk dances. Greek Orthodox churches hold special services. Coastline towns may have marine parades or other celebrations on the waterside.

 

For the children who are excelling at school (and their parents of course) the Ochi day is their proudest moment! The top student of the school is presented with the honour to lead the parade in his town or district by holding the Greek flag. The clothing of the students has to represent the colours of the Greek flag and it consists always of the blue-white combination.

 

Greek people flood the streets to watch these parades and wave their Greek flags too. After the processions finish, friends and family gather at coffee shops or restaurants to enjoy the rest of the day.

 

Family traditions. Diana Zouppas, a holistic therapist, was born in Greece, studied in London and moved to Klagenfurt in 2012 because she married an Austrian man. Three years ago she did not know a word of German, but now she speaks the language fluently.

 

“In our family, we try to combine the Austrian, Greek and British traditions, because for many years I had been living and working in the UK”, Diana says. “We celebrate all national holidays: I want my son to know Greek history as well as Austrian. The Ochi Day is a very important day for me personally.

 

I remember in my childhood the Ochi Day was always a very proud day because it signified the importance of the few winning over the many, of the courage taking over the fear. That was the message my very small country taught the world by rising united against the superior numbers of Italians and delaying Hitler’s plan. My parents and teachers always used the Ochi Day as an opportunity to teach me all there is to know about courage and bravery.

 

Now that I live in Austria, sometimes I have travelled back to Greece to participate with my son in the celebrations on this important day. However, when travelling is not possible, I still reconstruct a ‘mini parade’ in our Austrian living room. I lead the way holding tall a big Greek flag and my son follows me with a little flag singing our National anthem with background sound effects from YouTube videos showing the festivities in Greece.

 

Ochi Day means for me believing in the power we all have within and never give up fighting for our values and principles. Like Winston Churchill (UK Prime Minister 1940-1945) said “ …hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks”.

 

Diana has successfully organized her own business in Klagenfurt, and she really loves her work. Her Holistic House is a place where people can relax, remove daily stress and get positive energy with the help of wonderful aromas, natural skincare, powerful crystals and therapeutic energy rebalancing treatments. She invites everyone to try the magic of holistic therapy: you can book an appointment by calling 0664 5791221.

Text: Vita Vitrenko