Today, March 25, the Greek flags wave proudly in the gentle spring wind and the Greeks wish each other ‘xronia polla’ again. It is independence day. On this day in 1821, Greece declared itself independent of the Ottomans, who had occupied the country for more than four centuries. This March 25 marked the start of the Greek War of Independence, the Elliniki Epanastasi. Today, Greeks throughout the country commemorate the battle of their ancestors.
The revolution began in the Peloponnese and expanded from there to the rest of Greece. Although the Ottomans were not as strong as they once used to be, they hit back hard. Greece, however, as the cradle of Western civilization, received help from Europe over time. With the help of France, Great Britain and Russia they managed to turn the tide.
Festivities on Independence Day
Today a parade is held in every district of Thessaloniki. But the ones who are in the center of the city can count on something extra. An extra long parade takes place there. Moreover, the church bells sound cheerfully, there is spoken in the Agia Sofia church and there is a wreath laying. The philharmonic orchestras play loudly through the main streets. 25 March is an important and joyful day for the Greeks. But except that independence is commemorated, 25 March is also significant for another reason.
The Message of Mary
Apart from the fact that 25 March is a national holiday, this day also has a religious significance for the Greeks. It is the day on which the Message of Mary, the Evangelismou tis Theotokou, is celebrated. March 25 was the day Mary received the message that she would give birth to the son of God. The news was brought to her by the archangel Gabriel. This day has been symbolically chosen by the Greek rebels as the beginning of the revolt against the Ottomans.
Traditions on the table
Of course, this day is an opportunity for the Greeks to dine with family and friends. The national dish (at least, on the mainland) is cod with garlic sauce, bakaliaro me skordalia. This dish has been eaten on 25 March since the 15th century. For the poor inhabitants of that time, cod was an inexpensive alternative to other, fresh fish. And easy to store, too. This tradition has been maintained to this day.
Bouboulina, Greek heroine of the Independence War
Those who have a love for Greece and its history have undoubtedly heard of Bouboulina. But who was she exactly? Bouboulina was born in 1771 and developed a passion for ships at a young age. At the age of 40, Bouboulina becomes a widow for the second time. Both her husbands were killed at sea. She takes her name from her last husband, the wealthy Dimitrios Bouboulis.
After his death, Bouboulina inherited a huge fortune. With this she expands her inherited fleet considerably. She also sends weapons and food to the soldiers. In 1818, Bouboulina became the only woman to join the underground group that was preparing for the revolution against the Ottomans: the Filiki Etairia. Her ship, Agamemnon, was the largest ship used by the Greek rebels. Bouboulina was killed in 1825. Just like in the rest of Greece, several streets are also named after this war heroine in Thessaloniki.