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October 28th - Oxi Day

If there's one thing you need to know about this day, know that the Greek word "oxi"/"ohi" means "no". October 28th is known as the 'Anniversary of No' (Επέτειος του Όχι in Greek) and is an important, widely-celebrated day in Greece, Cyprus, and diaspora communities throughout the world. The day commemorates the then Greek Prime Minister's rejection of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's ultimatum in 1940 and the attack against invading Italian forces which ensued afterwards thus marking Greece's entry into World War II.

History of Conflict

At this time, Italy was ruled by military dictator Benito Mussolini. Relations between Greece and Italy in this period were marked with tension over various issues, including land disputes, Italian expansionism, and Greece's resistance to foreign occupation. When the Italian Ambassador presented Greece's Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas with an ultimatum from Mussolini (to allow Italy to occupy certain strategic areas of Greece in an attempt to expand Italy's influence in the Balkan region), Metaxas firmly rejected Mussolini's requests by reportedly telling him "no."

Understandably unhappy with Greece's rejection of the ultimatum, Italian forces invaded northern Greece on October 28, 1940 thus leading to the beginning of the Greco-Italian War, a theater of WWII. Despite the Greek military being outnumbered and in a less powerful position, both the military and Greek people put up a determined and effective defense against the Italian forces. This defense and resistance against Italy attracted international attention and support; Greece then received assistance from other militaries to defend against the Italian invasion.

It is a commonly-held belief that the bravery of Greek soldiers might have played a role in the outcome of the war as it eventually necessary for German troops to occupy Greece thus diverting German resources. This delayed their invasion of Russia, a move which is thought by many to have had a significant role in the defeat of the Germans.

Significance of Ohi Day

Although it may sound like an insignificant event to celebrate, the 'Anniversary of the No' represents the strong-willed determination of the Greek people to defend their sovereignty and freedom. Greeks are proud of their grit and willingness to fight for country and their interests. Beyond that, this holiday serves as a day to celebrate Greek national pride and independence.

"Until now we used to say that the Greeks fight like heroes. Now we shall say: The heroes fight like Greeks."

- Sir Winston Churchill - Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Celebration of Holiday

The events of 1940 are commemorated every year with military and student parades throughout communities that celebrate. In Greece, major cities will host parades, which involve children dressing in national folk outfits proudly displaying banners and signage, patriotic organizations, and military units. On every anniversary, you'll find the majority of all public buildings and residences decorated with the Greek flag and wreaths laid on war memorials and statues in memory of those who gave their lives for the country. Schools and most places of work are also closed in celebration of the holiday, and public officials often give speeches relating to the significance of the day.

People commonly use the expression "Ζήτω η Έλλας / η Ελλάδα" ("Zee-to i Ellas / i Ellada", long live Greece!), Ζήτω Η 28η Οκτωβρίου ("Zee-to I Eikosiokti Oktovriou," long live the 28th of October) or the classic Greek phrase that is used on most holidays/special days Χρόνια Πολλά ("Hronia Polla," many years) to express well wishes on the special day.

So, as we commemorate Ohi Day in 2023, let's take a moment to celebrate and reflect on the immense meaning behind a single word.


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