Independence Day is a major public holiday in Greece that celebrates Greek sovereignty. The holiday is celebrated on 25 March each year. While Independence Day is a national holiday that calls for much patriotism, it is also a time for religious celebrations since 25 March is usually the day of the Feast of Annunciation, a major holiday for the Greek Orthodox Church.
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By the 15th century CE, Europe had seen many empires rise and fall. The Greek and Roman Empires had both lived through their golden ages and dissolved into modest nations. In 1453 CE, the Byzantine Empire also fell. After Constantinople was captured by the Turks, the Ottoman Empire began to push deeper into Europe. Their next target was Greece.
While the Greeks resisted the advance of the Ottoman Empire for a while, they were no match for the Turks’ well-supplied army and rich resources. In 1458, Ottoman forces marched on Athens and Greece fell under Turkish control. The Ottoman Empire maintained its hold over Greece for nearly 400 years.
Despite being controlled by the Turks, the people of Greece maintained their language and national identity. This was likely due to Greece’s existing pride in their stories and history. Eventually, the Greeks began to yearn for sovereignty and the ability to govern themselves.
In 1821, Greek nationalism reached a boiling point. On 25 March 1821, an Orthodox bishop known as Germanos of Patras hoisted a Greek flag on the Monastery of Agia Laura in Peloponnese. Since religion was connected to the national identity of many Greeks, it seems appropriate that Germanos was the one to raise the Greek flag. This triggered a new war between Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Historians now call this conflict the Greek War for Independence. During the war, Greeks commonly shouted the slogan ‘freedom or death’ in public places. In Greek, this slogan is ‘Eleftheria i Thanatos’.
After a campaign that lasted for more than a year, the Greek forces marched onto Athens and reclaimed their capital from the Ottoman Empire. While Greece was recognised as a sovereign nation after capturing Athens, the Greek War for Independence continued for an additional eight years due to Turkish military efforts.
During this time, Greece received support from various nations, including Britain, France, and Russia. In one extraordinary situation, Greece’s allies destroyed an Ottoman fleet that was en route to Greece. The Greek War for Independence ended with the Treaty of Edime.
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