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Hellenic parade celebrates Greek independence in San Francisco March 30, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora, Special Features.
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Some celebrants were dressed like heroic Greek freedom fighters from the early 19th century. Others donned the colorful, festive costumes of traditional dancers.

The Hellenic Cultural Parade in downtown San Francisco on Saturday culminated a weeklong celebration of all things Greek, from music to politics, history, philosophy, religion and food.

Led by a contingent of police officers on horseback, the parade drew sparse crowds along Market Street on its way to City Hall, but the revelers’ effusive spirit and cultural icons shone through.

“This is our way to remember and celebrate,” said George Katsoulis, an Oakland resident who carried the Olympic torch in the ancient Greek city of Argos in 2004. “To commemorate Greek independence day in any way is an honor. The music, the dance, the remembrance of our ancestors.” Katsoulis strode up Market Street, holding two symbols of peace, an olive branch in one hand and an unlit Olympic torch from 2004 in the other. Christine Diacou Hay of San Francisco revealed her Greek roots by shouting “Hronia pola!” – or long life, to the torch bearer.

This year’s celebration marked the 187th anniversary of Greek independence, dating to when rebels began their fight for independence after centuries of occupation by the Ottoman Empire.

“It was the beginning in Europe of nations waking up to self-determination, freedom, choice and democracy,” said Metropolitan Gerasimos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco. Gerasimos, who leads 175,000 Greek Orthodox faithful in seven Western states, wore a traditional black robe similar to those worn by Greek clergy when the church was suppressed by the Ottomans.

Jim Vorrises, Vice President of the United Hellenic Federation of California, said: “Every year we celebrate the same event, remembering the fight of our forefathers to secure independence and freedom of the Greek nation. Those people had faith in God, faith in themselves and destiny.”

This was the 10th annual celebration of its kind in San Francisco, though others said the local tradition of marking Greek independence goes back for decades.

Among the highlights of this year’s celebration was a float bearing a replica of the Acropolis, or Sacred rock, of Athens, with four Greek muses in white gowns, smiling and waving to the crowd. Another float featured a mockup of a wooden boat, variously described as the ship sailed by Ulysses. 

Near the steps of City Hall, hundreds of spectators were serenaded by a vibrant Greek solo. Dancers in ceremonial costumes from the Island of Crete performed before a reviewing stand filled with dignitaries including Xenia Stefanidou, the Consul General of Greece in San Francisco.

“They feel proud of their ethnicity,” said journalist Savas Deligiorgis, who presents a Greek American program on KVTO-AM 1400, a San Francisco radio station, “because they always fight for freedom, democracy and human rights.” Ted Giouzelis of San Leandro, who was born in Sparta and raised in Athens, praised people of Greek ancestry as “hospitable, hardworking and lovers of knowledge.” 

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Greek Independence Day Parade in Montreal, Canada March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora, Special Features.
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The Hellenic Community of Montreal (HCM), in collaboration with the Greek Orthodox Community of Laval, is organizing their annual March 25th Parade commemorating Greece’s Revolution in 1821 against the Ottoman Empire.

The two hour parade will start at 1 p.m. March 30, 2008. It will run along Jean Talon St., beginning at Hutchinson St. and ending at l’Acadie Blvd. This year’s grand Marshall is Tom Kostopoulos from the Montreal Canadians.

Thousands of Montrealers of Greek heritage as well as Philhellenes are going to be gathered along Jean Talon Street to salute war veterans, community leaders, but most of all Hellenic youth. The Hellenic Community invites the population of Montreal to come and join in the celebration. For any information about the parade or other festivities plan please call (514) 738-2421.

Hellenic Community of Montreal (HCM), 5777 Avenue Wilderton, Montreal, QC H3S 2V7, Tel (514) 738-2421, Fax 514 738 5466, www.hcm-chm.org

Greek National Day honored at the White House March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Special Features.
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26-03-08_white_house.jpg  The 187th anniversary of the Greek Independence Day was honored yesterday at the White House. During a special ceremony in Washington, to honor the Greek Community on the occasion of Greece’s National anniversary, U.S. President George W. Bush handed to Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America His Eminence Dimitrios the “Declaration on the Greek Independence Day”.

26-03-08_evzones.jpg  Evzones marched in Athens > Elite soldiers of the Presidential Guard, or Evzones, marched through Athens yesterday to mark the anniversary of Greece’s War of Independence.

Celebrations included the customary show of strength by Greece’s armed forces, including an air show. President Karolos Papoulias hailed the “dedication to freedom and self-determination” of Greece’s resistance fighters, whose spirit, he said, was as relevant as ever in today’s “unstable geopolitical environment”.

Greek National Day > more photos March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Special Features.
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As promised in our yesterday’s post, we present herewith some additional photos from the military parade, which took place yesterday in Athens, commemorating Greece’s National Day, the Independence Day of 25th March 1821.

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Kalamata’s liberation anniversary March 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Greek Culture Heritage, Special Features.
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Celebrations in Kalamata marking the 187th anniversary of the city’s liberation from Ottoman rule culminated last Sunday night with an official dinner in honour of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias hosted by Kalamata Mayor Panagiotis Nikas. 

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The dinner was also attended by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece,  government Ministers and local Municipal and prefectural authorities. Addressing the President, Mayor Nikas thanked him for honoring the event with his presence, stressing that Kalamata’s liberation meant a lot for the liberation struggle, as Kalamata was the first city to rid itself of the Turkish yoke.

In his return address, President Papoulias said that the anniversary celebration “fills our hearts with strength and passion for the safeguarding and preservation of our freedom”. In honoring all those heroes who fought for the national dignity and independence, one must draw from their sacrifices the necessary teachings to carry on, in these difficult times, on the steadfast national course, Papoulias added.

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The President said that a catalytical factor in the 1821 Revolution was “the faith in the sacredness of the struggle, and the power of the passion inspired by the justness of that struggle”. “It is our obligation to safeguard and make use of this precious heritage. It is our obligation to be prepared for sacrifices, individual and collective, to face the difficult circumstances today, and to prove that we are conscious of our country’s great and historical responsibility to the future,” President Papoulias concluded.

Greece celebrates anniversary of 1821 Revolution March 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Special Features.
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The 187th anniversary of the 25 March 1821 Greek Revolution, which marked the start of its war of Independence against Ottoman rule and the birth of the modern Greek Nation, was celebrated throughout the country on Tuesday with school parades in every town and district, as well as a grand military and security forces parade in central Athens that was held in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

Earlier, President Papoulias had also attended a celebratory mass at the Athens Cathedral for the twin holidays of the Independence anniversary and the feast of the Annunciation of Virgin Mary, both celebrated on March 25, that was led by the Bishop of Fanar Agathonikos. Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronynos was unable to lead the mass following an accident that resulted in a broken ankle, for which he was being treated in hospital.

On his arrival at the Cathedral, the President was received by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, Athens Prefect Dimitris Sgouros and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.

Prior to the start of the parade, President Papoulias deposited a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside Parliament and observed a minute’s silence in honour of the freedom fighters of 1821, after which an mixed honour guard fired a volley of shots and cannons were fired from Lycabettus Hill.

The President then inspected an honour guard and greeted the political, state and military leadership before taking his place on the officials’ stand to watch the parade, alongside the Prime Minister, the Parliament President, and other state officials.

25-03-08_greek_evzones.jpg  The Presidential Guard known as “Evzones” on parade, during the March 25 Independence Day anniversary parade.

The customary annual military parade was led as always by the wounded veterans of war, the 1974 commando troops that fought on Cyprus during the Turkish invasion, and the Greek Red Cross, followed by the units of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Greek Police, Fire Brigade and Coast Guard, while military and fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters flew overhead.

In statements after the end of the parade, President Papoulias said the anniversary was celebrating one of the most sensational moments in Greece’s history, the decision of an unarmed and persecuted nation to rise up against an empire and create the modern Greek state. This same passion had fired Greeks during the Balkans wars and in their resistance to the forces of Fascism in 1940, and would continue to arm the people and the armed forces to repel any attempt against Greece’s territorial integrity, he added.

“I am confident about the future of this nation. Of this people that have so many gifts and are ready to make any sacrifice in order to ensure freedom and national independence,” he stressed.

Prime Minister Karamanlis, on his part, stressed that it was the struggles and sacrifices of heroes known and unknown, from 1821 until the present day, that had allowed Greece to become free, to modernise and develop and to earn its place on the international scene.

A major parade by school children, scouts and ground units of the Armed Forces was held in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Margaritis Tzimas representing the government.

The anniversary was also marked by Greek communities living abroad and in Cyprus, where Cyprus President Demetris Christofias congratulated Greece’s leadership and the Greek people during an event at the Greek Embassy in Nicosia, stressing that the Greek war of independence had been “one of the great revolutions of the 19th century”.

Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Dimitris Rallis, on his part, referred to the ongoing Turkish occupation on Cyprus itself, saying that this had to end, and once again reiterated Greece’s steadfast support and assistance to the struggle being given by Greek-Cypriots to achieve this.

In a televised address to Greek-Cypriots, he praised the recent agreement between Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat but stressed that the Turkish side had to demonstrate a constructive attitude so that negotiations for a political solution might resume.

Greeks in Australia marked the anniversary with a mass at the Church of the Annunciation, the oldest Greek Orthodox church in Melbourne, and the laying of wreaths at the Shrine of Remembrance in the city. The President of the U.S. sector of the World Council of Hellenes of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Theodoros Spyropoulos, meanwhile, issued a message that highlighted the anniversary as the supreme symbol of the Greek Nation’s struggle for National independence, as well as a timeless and enduring symbol for the entire world.

Greece’s National Day celebrated > military parade March 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Special Features.
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A grand military parade was hosted today in Athens, in honoring and celebrating Greece’s National Day, the Independence Day of 25th March 1821.

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More pictures will follow tomorrow. Stay tuned!