Celebrations for Greek Independence Day take place along Danforth Ave. here in Toronto.
By Laura Popa
While March 25 is an ordinary spring day to most of us, the date holds significance for more than 16 million individuals worldwide. I’m talking about Greek Independence Day, a holiday that consists of the closing of schools and businesses, countless church services, and Hellenics participating in massive celebrations.
The day also coincides with the Orthodox Christian celebration of the Annunciation – the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to Maria of her impending pregnancy with Jesus.
Greek Independence Day commemorates the success of the Greek Revolution, which started on March 25, 1821, and saw the downfall of the 376-year-long occupation of Greece by the Ottoman Empire. The clash between Greek rebels and Ottoman soldiers lasted about eight-and-a-half years, ending with 50,000 Greek casualties.
During this feud, Greek rebels enlisted the support of foreign public figures, most famously Lord Byron (English writer and politician) and Emperor Nicholas I (Tsar of Russia during the 19th century). To the intense relief of Greeks everywhere, Hellenic soldiers and citizens ultimately succeeded in protecting their national pride on September 12, 1829.
Greeks celebrate this unique holiday by organizing and attending numerous patriotic celebrations, including speeches, school parades and, perhaps most famously, a massive military parade in Athens that attracts thousands of spectators, including the Greek president.
Religious Greeks attend church in the morning, and afterwards traditional meals such as bakaliaros (breaded and fried cod) and skordalia (potato and garlic dip) are eaten. Elaborate Greek Independence Day celebrations are starting to emerge outside of Greece in Boston, New York City, and even in Toronto, along Danforth Avenue.
Believe it or not, Greek Independence Day is of great significance to Canada and its citizens. Take King Charles III as an example. His father, the late Prince Philip, was a Greek native who was baptized in the Orthodox faith. Prince Philip’s ties to his native culture could be seen through his attendance at a Greek Independence Day event in London, England, in 2021.
Besides the lives of royalty, Canada has other links to Greece: our country is home to the seventh largest population of Hellenics in the world and Mowat Collegiate has numerous staff and students of Greek descent.
Greek Independence Day is important in Canada not only because of our nation’s ties, but because of what it means to Greek Canadians.
Laura Popa is a Grade 12 student at Mowat Collegiate.