March 23, 2005
March 25th falls on a Friday this year, the first time that it’s fallen on a weekend in the DCGreeks.com era. We predict that any celebration taking place on Friday should naturally benefit from this scheduling, leading to record turnouts. When a holiday falls during the week, there’s always the question of when the major festivities should take place, the week before or the week after, but when it falls on a Friday, it removes all doubt, even for Greeks. Even the most aloof of Greek-American young adults shouldn’t be able to resist the allure of the biggest going-out night of the Greek year.
Americans are great at commercializing their holidays and there’s no reason why we as Greek-Americans should be any better at resisting this vice. Holidays in this country are about the day off of work, the three-day weekend, or the gimmicky way of celebrating it while getting plastered. But, if you think about it, Greek Independence Day is perhaps the most poorly planned holiday ever, in terms of its ability to be commercially exploited.
The 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Bastille Day, Canada Day – what do all these holidays have in common? These are all held during warm weather months. Speaking more specifically about independence days, nations that bet the house that they will be successful in their bid for freedom consciously or subconsciously schedule the day during the warm weather months so their future citizens will be able to celebrate it the right way. Can we fault the Greek Revolutionaries back in the day for choosing the end of March to declare their independence? Maybe. They should have had faith that they would have won their independence and that one day Greeks would outgrow the homeland, leave, and be celebrating Greek Independence Day in such cold weather locales as New York, Boston, Chicago, or Canada.
The other thing about the Greek Independence Day is its coupling with the celebration of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This was actually quite deliberate on the part of Greece’s founding fathers who actually announced their independence two days earlier on March 23rd. They restated their independence as an afterthought to make it coincide with a major religious holiday. Now there’s nothing wrong with this per se, as Greece and the Greek Orthodox Church are very intertwined, but if you’re planning a secular, go-out-and-get-smashed celebration, maybe its not the best choice. March 25th always falls during Lent, which particularly back then, was treated as a time of fasting. The church allows for a relaxation of the fast on the date, which allows for fish and wine, which may be great if you consider a trip to Long John Silvers a party, but not if complimentary ouzo shots and all night partying is more your speed. (Everyone knows that all the best partying holidays are completely secular. Don’t let the “Saint” in Saint Patrick’s Day fool you…)
We’ve done our best as Greek Americans to commercialize Greek Independence Day. Locally, the Greek Embassy is known for its great lavish spread that has Greeks from Virginia and Maryland getting lost in DC’s traffic circles around the embassy. Baltimore has the largest Greek parade on the East Coast in Greektown, which now in its 10th year seems to be scheduled further and further away from March 25th. (This year because of Western Easter, it’s on April 3rd instead of this Sunday.) And in DC there’s at least one Greek Night sure to bring out hundreds of even the most seldom seen Greeks in DC, Baltimore and all up and down the East Coast.
We wish everyone a happy and safe Greek Independence Day this year and urge everyone to celebrate it in whatever way they choose. (See ya at Greek Night.)