The 28th of October, a national holiday in Greece, is usually a wonderful excuse for long weekend travel. This year, however, I stayed in Athens and popped down from my aunt’s house to see the parade and celebrations in the suburb of Halandri. Though I had hopes of going downtown for the city of Athens parade, I was deterred by reports of ‘draconian’ security measures, which would prevent the public getting too close to the officials who sit outside the Parliament while students march past. Also, the military parade is held in Thessaloniki, so the Athens parade was a smaller affair.
I got enough of a taste of the holiday in Halandri though, where the municipality had organised the usual parade as well as speeches, wreath laying, and finally traditional Greek dances by local groups.
I’ve written about the holiday itself in the past – in 2011, I was on the island of Chios, while last year we watched the parade on the island of Spetses. ‘Oxi (No) Day’ celebrates Greece’s resistance to Italian occupation (hence the ‘No’), and its subsequent entry into the Second World War. The holiday is celebrated with parades where most students march uniformly, accompanied by a drum corps. When I watch the parades, I usually muse about how different my life would be if I had grown up in Greece instead of in the States.
This year though, a classmate of mine from Edinburgh asked, ‘why do we still have student parades in Greece?,’ comparing the celebration of Oxi Day with the Norwegian Independence parade, which is a much more laid back affair and without the somewhat-militaristic undertones of rhythmic marching in matching ‘uniforms.’ A question worth asking, perhaps especially in the context of the central Athens parade where parents and other spectators are carefully kept behind barriers by the riot police.
This parade was not terribly formal – at the end it dissolved into wandering children and families, drums being beaten just for fun by the younger kids as the older students continued to march. It was nice to see the central square of Halandri full, while also marking the transition from summer to autumn. Warm coats were out in abundance.