When I first arrived in Greece in November 2001 and Greek Independene Day was approaching I kept telling everyone around me that I want to go the Parade in Athens. I don’t know what I was expecting to see but whatever it was, I was now living in Greece and I was going be a part of it! I was expecting a “Festive Celebration of Greek Pride” atmosphere – more festive than 5th Avenue (Greek Pride Takes Over Fifth Avenue – NY1.com.), and more “goose-bumpy” sentimental than I’ve ever before experienced because now, I was in my Motherland where it all began! I was expecting some kind of Grand Presentation.
I thought the Greek Independence Day Parade on 5th Avenue was going to be child’s play compared to whatever was in store in Athens. As much as I used to love celebrating Greek Independance Day on 5th Aveue by either particpating in, or just going to see the parade on 5th Avenue…I was going to see a Genuine Greek Independence Day Parade!
THE NATIVE GREEKS (a.k.a. Planet Greekans)
To make a very long story short, nobody that I knew ever went to this parade. In the end I finally forgot about the parade and on Greek Independence Day, when I turned on the TV the channels were asking people of all ages (children, teenagers, and young adults) “What are we celebrating today”. To my surprise 8 out of 10 people said “OXI Day”. I was horrified. Even I, the Greek Goddess who grew up abroad and went to only a couple of hours a week Greek afternoon school for only a couple of years, knew that March 25th is INDEPENDANCE DAY! and not only that, I also new that October 28th is OXI DAY! Not even a year into living in Greece and already I felt dissappointment.
THE GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE IN ATHENS
Following the interviews, the Greek Independance Day began! It began with a looooong boring speech from the President of the Parliament that didn’t bring me any excitement at all. It was a straight faced speeched with no passion, no enthusiasm. I thought to myself (Hitler would have been more motivating). Just before nodding off, the parade began. I saw all the military vehicles Greece owns, I saw all the Soldiers (who were servicing their required 1 year duty) marching. And finally the military air show. Fighter planes and military helicopters flying above in a straight line, the length of the parade. and then…it was over. The Parade starts late in the morning, lasts for a couple of hours, ends by early afternoon and then, nothing. The celebration stops there.
My thought was “ok”. Where are the children, the schools, the celebration, the creative presentations of floats commemorating people and the historical events, reminding us to be proud, and get us rallying in proudness? Dumby “fresh from abroad” Greek that I was at that time, I assumed….”Maybe next year it will be different”.
Well folks, for 11 long years I watched the same interviews with the wrong answers, and the same parade http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L9Z4VXofkA&feature=related with the same military armour with the ONLY difference being….the weather.
Watching JUST the military march year after year after year, well, I’m sorry – it gets depressing as it reminds me of all those film clips of the Hitler-NAZI era. In addition to that, the seriousness of the Officials in the stands….“dictatorship” comes to mind. So I stopped watching and lost my excitement about Greek Independence Day on March 25 way back in 2004.
I’m sorry but, MAJOR DISAPPOINTEMENT here on Planet Greece. I miss the “Proud to be Greek” feeling and I soooooo miss 5th Avenue ….
I should also mention that all the local towns have their own parades. All the shool children dress in blue and white and march down the main road of their town. Then the parents collect their kids and everyone is off to eat at Tavernas. No floats, no creativity, just blue and white kids marching year after year after year. I’m not dissapointed in the instance for me, I’m disappointed for the children, no wonder they get the events confused because on the 28th of October….they do the same thing. They dress in blue and white and march down that main road of their town and then it’s Taverna Time!
After 11 years of observations, it breaks my heart to say that these historical dates are far from “commemorations” for the nation to celebrate. They are just another day off, another routine holiday. There is no “hype” to rally up a crowd to shout with passion ‘ΖΗΤΩ Η ΕΛΛΑΣ’. No creativity to express “Proud to be Greek” attitude to make you actually want to shout out ‘ΖΗΤΩ Η ΕΛΛΑΣ’.
I must say, living in Greece for the last 11 years I have never, not once felt “festive” (as I know “festive” to be) nor have I experienced a feeling of “solidarity” especially on this Historical Day. It’s not because of today’s crisis or the recent austerity measures….this has always been and I find it sad and a big disappointment. So much so that I’m not so sure if I’m proud to be Greek anymore, but I’m hanging in there….