Every year on October 28th, Greeks around the world celebrate and commemorate that day in 1940 when Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said no OXI [ó-chi] to Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum that Italian forces were to either be allowed to invade and occupy strategic locations in Greece or be faced with war. It was also considered a “no to fascism”. On the very same day that Metaxas said no, the Italian troops invaded the Epirus region in northwestern Greece.
This decision to deny the Italians easy entry into the country was considered courageous and is still regarded as a symbol of solidarity and heroism for millions of Greeks all around the world today.
Greece had tried to stay neutral in the early days of the Second World War, but then became allied with Great Britain and as a result of the great OXI, Greece entered World War II, beginning with the Greco-Italian War. The Greek forces fighting on the mountains of Pindus in Epirus were tough to beat, and they kept the Italian army from entering Greece for almost six months. This is when Winston Churchill famously said:
“Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”
Going to Church on October 28th
Many Greeks also start this day by attending church. On this day, the Christian Orthodox church celebrates the Feast Day of the Holy Protection of the Virgin Mary. October 1st was the original date dedicated to this celebration but the date was changed to the same day as OXI day because it is believed that the Virgin Mary helped the Greek soldiers fight their enemy and liberate the country.
The Greek flag
Just a few days before the 28th of October, Greeks proudly hang their Greek flag on their balconies as well as in their shops. On every anniversary, most public buildings and residences in Greece are decorated with the Greek national flag.
Vendors also set up shop on busy street corners in every area of the Greek cities and towns with Greek flags of all sizes for sale a few days before this important patriotic anniversary.
More OXI Day celebrations include general flag decorations, laying wreaths at various military memorials around the country, and of course, the playing of the Greek national anthem.
The military and student parades
Every year on October 28th, military and student parades take place in Athens, Thessaloniki, and other cities and towns around Greece and Cyprus. Student parades also take place in cities across the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia, wherever there are large Greek diaspora populations. The students dress in blue and white, the colors of the Greek flag.