If you happen to be traveling in either Greece or Cyprus during the month of October, you will more than likely come across the parades and other celebrations to commemorate Ochi Day. Greeks will celebrate the anniversary of General Ioannis Metaxas’ refusal to allow the Italians free passageway to invade Greece. Ochi Day takes place on October 28 each year.
In October of the year 1940, Italy was at that stage backed by Hitler and had intentions to occupy Greece. Metaxas simply refused by saying “Ochi!” which means “No!” in Greek. It was his words which brought Greece into the war siding with Britain. Mussolini’s troops could not get a free passage into Greece and were driven back to Albania.
The Germans attempted to invade Greece from the air with paratrooper landings in Crete. The attack was, however, the last attempt of the Nazis to invade Greece and cost too many German lives.
Had Metaxas not stood up and refused, World War II could have carried on even longer. Another theory suggests that Hitler would have been able to invade Russia earlier on during the spring had Greece surrendered. Instead, the Nazis made a disastrous attempt to seize Russia during winter.
Western countries may have aided ancient Greece with the development of democracy, but they could very well owe modern Greece an equal debt for preserving democracy against its foes during World War II.
Traveling on Ochi day, one will see the military parades which will be held in all the major cities across the country. The Greek Orthodox Churches will also hold special services to mark the occasion. Towns along the coast are a great location, offering many celebrations along the waterfront including naval parades.
Thessaloniki, in particular, will also celebrate the patron saint of the city, Saint Dimitrios, as well as celebrate its freedom from the Turkish nation, and commemorate the entry of Greece into the Second World War.
A few pointers to bear in mind: In more recent years, Ochi day has seen several anti-American and anti-war protests, but are not likely to be violent or threatening to the public. Traffic jams are also quite common, particularly along the parade routes and near streets hosting celebrations and events. Remember, archaeological sites, as well as businesses and usual services, are expected to be closed. last but not least, enjoy Ochi Day!