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Ochi Day

Ochi Day 2017 and 2018

Ochi Day, known also as “World War ΙΙ National Holiday”, is a public holiday in Greece and Greek Cyprus commemorating the resistance to the Axis powers.

YearDateDayHoliday
201728 OctSatOchi Day
201828 OctSunOchi Day

Ochi Day falls on every October 28th, the day in 1940 when Greek’s leader refused to surrender without a fight and, thus, brought Greece into World War II on the side of the Allies.

After a long, bitter struggle to free themselves from Turkish domination in the 1800’s, Greece had finally become an independent nation again, but the 20th Century brought new challenges to their national existence. A dictator named Ioannis (John) Metaxas had ruled Greece since 1936, but he refused to align Greece with the Axis Powers. On October 28th, 1940, Italian dictator Mussolini demanded Metaxas allow Axis forces to occupy Greece or face war. Metaxas’ reply was “Then it is war!” In legend, somehow, this has been summarized to “Ochi!” (no!), which can also be transliterated “Ohi!,” explaining the variant spelling of the holiday in English as “Ohi Day.”

Italy’s army in neighbouring Albania immediately marched on Greece’s western border, but the Greeks counterattacked and drove them back through the Pindus Mountains and deep into Albania. Later, German forces joined in the fray, attacking from the eastern border, courtesy of Bulgaria, which had allied itself with the Nazis. For four long days, the Greeks held off the Germans and forced them to bring in reinforcements, diverting German resources and costing them precious time. In this “Battle of Metaxas Line,” the fierceness of Greek resistance won them the praise of Allied leaders worldwide. Winston Churchill remarked that no longer would it be said of Greeks that they fight like heroes but of heroes that they “fight like Greeks”.

For a time, Greece was the only nation allied with Britain against the Axis Powers, and many speculate that World War II could have lasted longer or could even have been lost were it not for the Greeks. The reason is because their resistance slowed Hitler down in his conquest of the Balkans, which then led to his invading Russia during the winter instead of spring, which is almost always asking for disaster.  Throughout World War II, October 28th was marked by the Greeks, and after the war, it continued to be celebrated ever since.

Should you tour the land of Greece during Ochi Day, some events to attend include:

  • The numerous parades, both military and student-led that take place in every major town in Greece on this day, often along with folk dancing and other cultural events. If you attend a parade in a coastal city, which in Greece is most of them, you can also enjoy a “naval parade.”
  • Go to Thessaloniki, where you can enjoy three celebrations at once: Ochi Day, Saint Dimitrios Day, and the commemoration of independence from Turkey. While in the area, you may wish to visit the monastery at Mount Athos, Mount Olympus, or the tombs of Vergina.
  • Attend special Ochi Day services at a Greek Orthodox Church, where patriotism and religious fervour blend and where you can also admire the Greek architecture in buildings that are often many centuries old.

Ochi Day offers many opportunities for tourists to see Greek patriotism on display, to learn of Greek culture and history, and to be abundantly entertained.