LivingTravelCelebrate Ochi's day in Greece

Celebrate Ochi's day in Greece

Are you traveling in Greece or Cyprus during October? If so, on October 28, expect to find parades and other celebrations to mark Ochi Day, which is the anniversary of General Ioannis Metaxas ‘outright denial of the Italians’ request for free passage to invade Greece.

History and origins

In October 1940, Italy, backed by Adolf Hitler, wanted to occupy Greece. Metaxas simply replied, “Ochi!” That means “no” in Greek. It was a “no” that led Greece to war on the Allied side. For a time, Greece was Britain’s only ally against Hitler. 

Greece not only refused to give free passage to Benito Mussolini’s forces, but also seized the offensive and drove them back through most of Albania.

Some historians attribute the fierce resistance of the Greeks to the subsequent German paratrooper landings during the Battle of Crete as having convinced Hitler that such attacks cost too many German lives. The aerial invasion of Crete was the last attempt by the Nazis to use this technique, and the additional resources needed to subdue Greece exhausted and distracted the Third Reich from its efforts on other fronts.

If Metaxas hadn’t said ‘no’, World War II could have lasted much longer. One theory suggests that if Greece had agreed to surrender without resistance, Hitler would have been able to invade Russia in the spring, rather than make his disastrous attempt in winter. Western nations, always happy to credit ancient Greece with developing democracy, may owe modern Greece an equal but generally unacknowledged debt for helping to preserve democracy against its enemies during World War II.

Was Metaxa really that succinct? Probably not, but that’s the way the story has been passed down. He probably answered in French too, not Greek.

Travel during vacations

On Ochi Day, all major cities host a military parade and many Greek Orthodox churches have special services. Coastal cities may have naval parades or other celebrations that occur on the boardwalk.

Thessaloniki offers a triple celebration, reverence the patron saint of the city of Saint Demetrius, celebrating his liberation from Turkey and commemorating the entry of Greece into World War II.

In recent years, as some anti-American and anti-war protests have heated up the always warm Greek political landscape. Ochi Day can be celebrated with more vigor than usual and with some additional political overtones. Regardless of oral or visual protests, they are unlikely to be anything more than a simple inconvenience.

Expect traffic delays, especially near parade routes, and some streets may be blocked for different events and celebrations.

Go ahead and enjoy the parades. Most archaeological sites will be closed, along with most businesses and services. In years when Ochi Day falls on a Sunday, additional venues will be closed.

Alternative spelling: Ochi Day is also spelled Ohi Day or Oxi Day.

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