Friday’s Fact About: Today’s Public Holiday ‘Oxi Day’

Today’s public holiday is one that celebrates what has been known as ‘No’ (‘Οχι in Greek) Day since 28th October 1940.

Ioannis Metaxas – Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 – until his death in 1941

Ioannis Metaxas – Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 – until his death in 1941

‘Ohi Day’ is celebrated throughout Greece, Cyprus and the Greek communities around the world on October 28 each year. Ohi Day commemorates the rejection by Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on October 28, 1940, the Hellenic counterattack against the invading Italian forces at the mountains of Pindus during the Greco-Italian War, and the Greek Resistance during the Axis occupation.

This ultimatum, which was presented to Metaxas by the Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, on October 28, 1940, at dawn (04:00 am), after a party in the German embassy in Athens, demanded that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations” or otherwise face war. It was allegedly answered with a single laconic word: όχι (No!) However, his actual reply was, “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!).

In response to Metaxas’ refusal, Italian troops stationed in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, attacked the Greek border at 05:30 am—the beginning of Greece’s participation in World War II (see Greco-Italian War and the Battle of Greece).

On the morning of October 28 the Greek population took to the streets, irrespective of political affiliation, shouting ‘ochi’. From 1942, it was celebrated as Ohi Day.

During the war, October 28 was commemorated yearly by Greek communities around the world and in Greece and Cyprus, and after World War II it became a public holiday in Greece and Cyprus. The events of 1940 are commemorated every year with military and student parades. On every anniversary, most public buildings and residences are decorated with Greek flags.

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