By William Planes, Special to the Hellenic News of America
As part of our remembering and honoring our Greek heritage, there is an abundance of holidays and celebrations related to the county of our family and ancestors, Greece, and our Greek Orthodox Faith. Among these holidays is Greek Independence Day.
Annually, March 25th, in Greece, is a national holiday that commemorates the beginning of the Greek War for Independence, a war that began in 1821. It is no coincidence that March 25th, on the calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church, is also the date that the Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This is when the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary, the Theotokos, and announces that she would bear Christ, the son of God.
March 25 denotes the beginning of the war of independence of Greece from the Ottoman Empire. Greece had fallen and became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and had suffered under the rain of the muslin world for close to 400 years.
On March 25, 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of the Greek revolutions in the Peloponnese at the Monastery of Agia Lavra. The slogan “Freedom or Death” rang out and became the theme of this revolution. Greece experienced early victories including the liberation of Athens in June of 1822. But the fight would go on for several years. Athens and most of the Greek islands were recaptured by the Turks in 1827.
At Greece’s darkest hours of this war, Great Britain, France, and Russia entered this war for independence. Sentiment and support for the Greek cause grew throughout Europe. The naval battle of Navarino included a combined British, French, and Russian Navy. This allied Naval fleet destroyed an enemy Naval fleet consisting of both Ottoman and Egyptian warships. The Treaty of Edirne, signed in 1829, established the independent state of Greece. This included the mainland of Greece and the many Greek islands that fill the sea to the East. The Treaty stopped short of the mainland of Asia Minor, thus leaving many of Greek heritage, the Greek Orthodox Faith, and the Church in Constantinople under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
In my book, Platanides-Through the Eye of the Storm, we see how those left behind in Asia Minor continue to suffer under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and how so many lost their lives in the Genocide of Greek and Armenian Christians who resisted the Turks. This included the burning and destruction of Smyrna on September 13, 1922.
As Orthodox Christians and a people of Greek Heritage, our family in the United States and in Greece have always celebrated the Annunciation of the Theotokos and Greek Independence Day.
In New York City and in many cities throughout the United States, like Tarpon Springs, Florida, the celebration of Greek Independence Day includes a parade, one where the participants dress out in Evzone costumes or traditional dress of the Greek city of an island where their family lives in Greece.
A couple of years ago, I receive this picture from my cousin Dean Furkioti who lives in Redondo Beach California. He had found this picture among the personal belonging of his mother, Pauline Tsalikidou (Charlekson) Furkioti. Pauline was first cousin to my father, Panayiotis Platanides. This picture was taken of my father, carrying my brother, Fotis Platanides (Frank Planes) in the 1940 Greek Independence Day Parade in New York City. They are all marching in the parade dressed in traditional Evzone customs.
For more information on our Greek Heritage, and Greek Orthodox Faith, see my book on Amazon.com or visit my website, williamplanes.com.
The start of the war for Greek Independence (March 25, 1821) and the victory resulting in Greek Independence (1829) happened 200 years ago, Greeks still celebrate this Greek National Holliday. It is a reminder of what can happen if they do not remain alert, less Greece and Greek Independence be lost again.