One of the biggest festivals celebrated in Greece, Cyprus and all Greek communities around the world is on October 28. It is symbolically called Ohi Day ( ‘Ochi’ or ‘Ohi” meaning ‘No’ in Greek). On that day in 1940, the Greek Prime minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected an ultimatum given by Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
Early in the morning of October 28, 1940, the Italian ambassador demanded Greece let Axis forces enter its territory freely or face war. Some sources state that Metaxas answered in these words: “So, it’s war” (in French, as the official language of diplomacy) but others say he just used one Greek word: “Ohi” (No).
This word led Greece into World War II on the Allies’ side.
The Italian troops attacked Greece from Albania only a few hours later, while Greek citizens flooded the streets yelling ‘ohi’, not caring about the danger.
Since 1942 this day has been celebrated to remember and respect the resistance of Greek people and fight for what is right.
Some historians talk about the much wider importance of this event. According to them, if Greece hadn’t rejected the ultimatum and let the Italian troops in without resistance, it would have enabled Hitler to invade Russia in the spring, rather than in winter and it would probably changed the course of history.
At that time Greece was the only ally of England and to honor Greece Winston Churchill famously said, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that Heroes fight like Greeks.”
On this day Greek flags are put up on all public buildings and many residences and schools and public institutions are closed for the day. There are student and military parades and folk dances in the streets and special church services but bars and restaurants are open as usual. An interesting fact is that ancient sites and museums are open free of charge.
So typical for Greeks and their love of freedom, national heritage, and celebration of love.