Today, March 25, marks an incredibly special day in Greece, as the country and Greeks worldwide celebrate Greek Independence Day.
On March 25 every year in Greece and among the diaspora, Greek Independence Day is commemorated with parades, ceremonies and celebrations- marking the country’s Revolution of 1821, against Ottoman rule.
Since 1838 when Otto was the King of Greece, March 25th commemorates the official start date of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. This national holiday is observed on this day throughout the entire country, and the festivities include a grand military parade, as well as organised student school parades.
History of Greek Independence Day
In 1821, Greece became the first country to officially separate from the traditional European monarchy. The Greek Revolution began with the fall of the Ottoman Empire as Greece came under its control. After years of revolts and two civil wars, France, the United Kingdom and Russia intervened and conquered the Ottoman Empire ultimately breaking free of their rule.
On March 25, 1821, the bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra in Peloponnese and one more revolution started against the Turks. The people of Greece shouted, “Eleftheria I Thanatos” (Freedom or Death) and they fought the War of Independence for 9 years (1821-1829) until a small part of modern Greece was finally liberated and it was declared an independent nation.
Festivities in Greece
March 25 is celebrated with rich Greek traditions and culture, including festivals with folk music, dancing and national costumes paraded around the country. From main cities to remote villages, locals celebrate this day with food and wine, with the traditional dish of the day being Bakaliaros Skordalias (fried salty cod with potato and garlic mash), which is made and served at festivals, taverns and family gatherings.
If you find yourself in the city centre of Athens today you will see streets adorned with Greek flags and many residents awaiting to watch the city’s grand military parade that takes place in the city’s central gathering point – Syntagma Square – and is attended by the President of Greece, important members of the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as other dignitaries.
Four French Rafale fighter jets from the French aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle” will join Greek planes and helicopters in the sky above Athens today, during the military parade and French armed forces will also participate in the holiday with the frigate “Alsace”, which will sail into Piraeus port, and a French Navy Guard of Honour without arms at Syntagma Square, which will be accompanied by a Greek military honour guard.
As Great Lent is in full swing in Greece, discover which Greek wines pair well with lent-friendly food and dishes!
The fast of the Great Lent, along with the weekly fast of Wednesday and Friday, is the oldest and only fast in the Greek Orthodox church, which have an Ecumenical dimension, that is, they were ratified by the Rules of the Ecumenical Council.
The fast of Great Lent in Greece begins on Shrove Monday and ends on Holy Saturday. It lasts 48 days! Traditional fasting is observed as follows:
Generally, foods allowed are vegetables, legumes, potatoes, pasta, nuts, olives, fruits, honey and in general foods that do not contain animal or fish products with the exception of mollusks and shellfish due to the fact that they do not contain any blood.
Prohibited foods: meat, fish, dairy products, oil, alcohol. Exceptionally, oil and wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, except for Holy Saturday, which is the only Saturday of the year in which oil and wine are prohibited.
Although the allowed food categories seem limited, in reality, they include a vast number of ingredients that are either cultivated or gathered from the Greek countryside offering an abundance of choices to prepare a fasting dish.
My general philosophy on fasting is not one of strict abidance to its rules so, some rule-bending will most certainly be tolerated if not encouraged throughout my propositions. Therefore, I will assume that oil is fully allowed during Lent, which is actually true in part and we will see which varieties of wine match the above categories of food.
Vegetables simmered in tomato
Greek specialties can be found in several internationally known dishes such as Mousaka and Souvlaki, but also in some suitable for fasting, like the Briam (Greek version of ratatouille). Red wine provides those dishes with the perfect complement to their stewed, cooked character which offers more complexity than when paired with the average green vegetable; and sometimes, with the addition of cheese (fasting rule breaker!), it’s possible to consider fairly powerful wines with low acidity (the tomatoes providing plenty of overall acidity) and a slightly stewed aroma, which complements the essential character of the dish itself. Here, the wines of the Peloponnese region are in their element and specifically Agiorgitiko either in its light red version or in the rosé vinification.
Cooking legumes and matching them with wine
Legumes are a food rich in proteins and carbohydrates, with pretty low-fat content. Beans, lentils and chickpeas certainly are the most common legumes used in Greek recipes. Beans are usually intended for the cold evenings of Lent. If we choose to cook them in tomato sauce then a Xinomavro rosé will fit it great. Otherwise, if we opt to cook them in lemon broth, the soft and discreet character of Muscat of Alexandria promises us balance with our plate.
Do you eat lentils? Many of us do not anymore. I love lentils, particularly if they are well cooked with plenty of herbs, with their mellow flavors and gentle spicing. In that case, we would opt for a wine to match the aromatic character with that of our plate. A Retsina (Assyrtiko) pairs well in this case, with its crisp acidity, rich mouth, fine resinous cues and a sense of herbs.
Finally, the underrated chickpeas, cooked with onion and lemon, offer a rich flavor, which combines the brilliance of onion with the acidity of lemon. An aromatic Messlagousia or a blend of Malagousia and Assyrtiko would maximize enjoyment.
French Fries and Bubbly…
Suppose we all liked French fries, despite the fact that it is increasingly considered junk food. Fresh potatoes don’t stand out for their flavor or taste! But when fried, their crispy sensation paired with the flavor of cooking oil and the taste of fried starch transform this otherwise uninteresting tuber into, probably, the most popular side dish in the Western World. What’s more, some if not all children believe they could live by eating only fries and ice cream or chocolate. So, which wines could best accompany that “unhealthy” temptation?
Surprisingly, the answer to this would be sparkling wine. A dry (Brut), lightly sparkling wine with citrus, mineral, and bread notes is the perfect complement to fries. The acidity and bubbles are the perfect balance to their saltiness and crunchiness. The acidity of the wine balances the oil’s fatty texture and the bubbles wash away its greasy sensation. The simplicity of sparkling wine and the saltiness of the French fries balance perfectly without one overpowering the other. My recommendation, in this case, would be a sparkling wine from Moschofilero or Assyrtiko.
Eating spinach? Spanakorizo and wine
A classic Greek food that is always present on the Lenten table is spinach cooked with rice. It is cooked either with lemon (white) or with tomato sauce (red). I personally consider spinach rice, apart from being a super healthy and nutritious food, to be extremely tasty and interesting, as long as the right balance among its ingredients is kept during its cooking. In the case of the lemon-white version, I would choose a wine of a white variety with generous aromatic richness to match the greenery of the food and the acidity of the lemon. A Malagousia or a Vidiano from Crete would be ideal matches for our fragrant spinach-rice plate. If we choose to cook it in tomato sauce, a rose wine from Limniona could be our match.
Fava … a classic dish during Lent
Fava is one of the most popular appetizers of Mediterranean cuisine and it usually accompanies seafood dishes or fish. Santorini claims the tastiest, most aromatic as well as the most expensive fava variety in Greece. Fava is usually served with finely chopped dry onion, parsley and plenty of oil. Alternatively, you can add sun-dried tomato or capers. For Fava Santorini, we would choose an Assyrtiko, from guess where? But from its birthplace of Santorini, of course. This way we would match the special taste of fava beans and the oiliness of olive oil with the intense acidity and mild aromatic character of the wine. Alternatively, a less expensive Savatiano from an attic vineyard would fit nicely with our dish.
Food and wine pairing with squid and octopus.
The lengthy period of Lent (48 days) makes it almost impossible to confine our food consumption, to legumes and vegetables solely. For a change and for the opportunity to consume some much-needed animal protein, we can turn to seafood recipes with mollusks namely squid or octopus. Apart from the classic fried squid, we can cook them stuffed with finely chopped onion rice, tomato and herbs offering us a perfect opportunity for a glass or more of rosé from Agiorgitiko grapes.
Octopus enables a wider range of recipes. Grilled, boiled in vinegar sauce, with rice, with short pasta and even stew.
So, which wines would best pair with the delicate taste of octopus? A wine with depth, strong flavor and plenty of acidity that “would cut through” the overwhelming taste of the octopus would be the option. If you prefer whites, then a Savvatiano from Attica or a Moschofilero from Peloponnese would be two remarkable choices because they are strong in flavor while retaining a long finish on the palette. Should you opt for the stew, then a red Limniona from Thessaly or even a dry Mavrodaphne from the Peloponnese or Kefalonia will give you a unique combination.
Sweets and Desserts
During Lent or other fasting periods, we can still enjoy some excellent Greek desserts and sweets such as Halvas, Melomakarona (mostly during the Christmas period), Loukoumades, Pasteli (sesame and honey candy) and a range of cakes or biscuits that do not contain eggs or dairy in their recipes. From all the above we will dwell on Loukoumades.
Loukoumades are goldish puffs of fried dough that are bathed in sweet honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon and grated walnuts. They are a simple treat but pack much flavor (and calories) which is enhanced by the spice and nuts. If you have chosen to completely give up meat during the Lenten season, walnuts would be a good supplement of protein for you.
So, we have a few simple ingredients for a little tricky to prepare dessert, but it will reward us both in taste and energy. We would match Loukoumades with a sweet wine. A sweet Moschato (Muscat of Lemnos, Muscat of Rio Patras, Muscat of Samos) would accompany our dessert wonderfully.
Fasting during Lent is for many of us an opportunity for spiritual catharsis and for others an occasion to eliminate animal protein from their diet for detoxification.
For modern Greeks, Lenten fast has been part of our popular tradition since our childhood and it has been engraved in us.
Fasting for almost 50 days requires substantial discipline, patience and determination to complete. It puts to the test one’s body but above all their mind and for the more religious of us, the strength of our soul.
Considering food recipes for fasting during Lent, let alone matching them properly with a bottle of wine, seems like a waste of time and energy to many contemporary people. I was once told by someone, not long ago, that scrutinizing my options for my meals while fasting was as meaningless as contemplating how many herbs and spices one should add to boiling water to make it tasty. Luckily for me or rather as an Epiphany, I had come across some old famous Italian proverbs the previous night. One of them cited: “Hunger is the best sauce for any dish”. Although my friend didn’t agree with that quote, he didn’t have much to say to respond to it.
To conclude, Lent and it’s fast could be seen not just as a relic from a religious tradition but as a testament to one’s ability to bring out creativity and ingenuity in order to make the best out of limited resources to satisfy not just the need to eat but also to enjoy his food. And no gastronomic pleasure is ever complete without a glass of the appropriate wine!
Καλή Σαρακοστή – Have a Holy and Blessed Lent!
For more wonderful wine explorations, follow George on Instagram @george.winestories
Oxi Day commemorated on the 28th of October each year, is one of the proudest National Holidays of Greece, highlighting the important role the country played in WWII.
On this day in 1940, Greece’s Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas denied Benito Mussolini’s request to allow Italian troops to cross the border into Greece. He responded to the Italian ultimatum in French, “Alors, c’est la gueree!” meaning “Then it is War!”
In the days following, the word of Metaxas’ denial had spread around Greece’s capital and the Greek population took to the streets shouting “Oxi!”. The decision made by Metaxas on the 28th ofOctober 1940, is commemorated each year as a day that represents heroism, bravery, and solidarity for millions of Greeks all around the world.
What Happened On This Day In History
The “No” of Metaxas expressed the feelings of all Greeks, echoed in the streets and throughout the land – as they yelled “No” to fascism, “No” to occupation. The Greek troops, skilled in fighting in this rough and mountainous territory, succeeded in pushing them back.
Many historians worldwide believe that Greece’s bravery may have changed the course of the war. It was ultimately necessary for the Germans to occupy Greece, which diverted their resources, and delayed their invasion of Russia, which led to their eventual defeat.
Greece’s bravery was recognised by allies and enemies alike.
People like the American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, the British statesman Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Charles de Gaul praised the Greek army as well.
“Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks” – Winston Churchill
Traditions for OXI Day In Greece
On this day in Greece, most public buildings, homes and streets are adorned with Greek flags on balconies, doors and windows. You will see parades and other festivities taking place throughout the country. It is a national holiday, which means that everything is closed, with the exception of cafes and restaurants.
The October 28th holiday is also celebrated by Greeks around the world; parades and festivities take place internationally including major cities in the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia.
How do Greeks celebrate their national anniversary?
In schools, pupils recite poems, sing songs or play scenes from the Greek-Italian war wearing costumes of the time. The school teachers usually talk about Greeks’ heroism at the war.
On the anniversary day, schoolchildren parade on the main street of their city, island, or village, as they march synchronously along with military music. Pupils’ parents and many people watch the parade, waving small flags and applauding. The best student of each school holds the Greek flag in the parade and is called simeofóros ‘the flag-bearer’.
There are also cultural groups, with each region of Greece wearing its own traditional costumes, and performing their music and dances.
Then the armed services of Greece parade. The military cadets in dress uniform march, and also all of the special units. In Thessaloniki, boats from the navy come to the harbour. The tanks of the army fill the surrounding streets and join the military parade. Skilled air force pilots fly in precise formations overhead, and military helicopters also.
This is also the time that Greeks honour the bravery of all the emergency services and rescue teams, the mountain rescue, firefighters, coast guard, first responders, and others that dedicate their lives to the safety and protection of others.
Before the parade, they lay a wreath of laurel onto the monument or square of the municipality or village they live in.
After the parades, families, and friends get together and many times eat out in a tavern. This is a time for a big lunch or a festive afternoon with friends in a traditional taverna.
Where are the biggest parades?
The biggest celebration in Greece happens in Thessaloniki, with a student and military parade and many officials attending. In Athens and all other cities of Greece, there are student parades and an all-over festive feel.
Free admission to Archaeological sites and Public Museums
On Oxi Day, admission to archaeological sites and public museums around Greece is free.
This includes the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Ancient Delphi, Ancient Mycenae, and Ancient Epidaurus.
In addition, you can visit the Acropolis Museum, National Archaeological Museum, or the Byzantine Museum free of charge.
Protomagia, the first day of May, is International Labor Day in Greece and it’s a bright, fun, holiday that’s enjoyed across the country.
The national holiday is traditionally celebrated with locals gathering for picnics at nearby villages and the countryside, where they fly kites with family and friends and gather blossoming flowers along the way to take home.
The flowers are then made into wreaths called “Stefania” which they hang on the front door to welcome the last month of Spring and to celebrate the upcoming arrival of summer. It is also where some residents living on the islands have their first swim of the season.
Protomagia finds its origins in ancient Greece as a celebration of nature’s rebirth, spring, and flowers. The month May was named after the Greek Goddess Maia, who was linked with the Ancient Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. The goddess took her name from the ancient word Maia, nurse, and mother.
May, according to Greek folklore, has two meanings: The good and the bad, rebirth and death.
To celebrate the day, there are usually parades and other festivities around Greece. As with every cultural event, May Day celebrations vary by region; for example in Corfu, locals walk around holding a cypress tree trunk, covered with yellow daisies, Cretans from Heraklio, host an annual Protomagia flower show. Other towns and islands organise parades and other joyous events to welcome May 1st.
Red-dyed Greek Easter eggs are a symbol of Resurrection, with the colour red representing the blood of Christ and the egg symbolising the sealed Tomb from which Jesus Christ arose after His Crucifixion.
Traditionally dyed on Holy Thursday (along with the baking of homemade Tsoureki and homemade Koulourakia), they are cracked after midnight mass on Holy Saturday, representing Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead.
There are a few ways of dyeing red eggs, depending on the brand and you should always follow the instructions. This recipe is for a sachet where you boil the eggs first and then dip them into the red dye.
-10 gm x red egg dye
-500ml x boiling water
-3 x tablespoons vinegar
-12 x eggs
-pinch of salt
-olive oil (for polishing)
–Wash eggs in cool water and place in a large saucepan filled with water and a pinch of salt.
-Boil the eggs on low heat for about 20 minutes or until they are hard-boiled.
-In the meantime, place red dye into a clean bowl and add vinegar.
-Boil 500 ml of water in a saucepan or kettle and add to red dye. Stir and set aside.
-When eggs are boiled and still hot, submerge the eggs in the dye and keep them in the dye for around 1 minute or until desired shade is achieved.
-Place about 2 x tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl and lightly dab paper towel with olive oil. Polish each egg with the paper towel evenly to give them a nice shine.
Top Tips for Dyeing Red Easter Eggs
-To achieve a vibrant red, use fresh, yellow eggs that are at room temperature before boiling.
-Always wash eggs before boiling to ensure the shell is clean.
-Make sure to add vinegar to the red dye.
-Always boil eggs on low heat, to avoid cracking.
– Make sure to polish each egg with olive oil for a complete shine.
Pascha is the biggest religious holiday of the year in Greece, which follows the Holy Week rites in commemoration of the Passion of Christ and the celebration of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Holy Week is the week just before Easter that extends from today, Palm Sunday, until Holy Saturday and marks the last week of Lent. It has been named “Holy,” due to the significant events that take place for Christianity in regard to the sufferings of Jesus Christ. During this week every year, believers prepare themselves for Jesus Christ’s Resurrection with special traditions.
Here we share some of these age-old traditions.
At the beginning of Holy Week, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates one of its most joyous feasts of the year. Palm Sunday is the commemoration of the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem following His glorious miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.
Today, Greek Orthodox Christians mirror Jesus’ follower’s actions by carrying a small woven palm cross, which is given out during the Palm Sunday morning church service. While Palm Sunday still occurs during the Sarakosti (40 days of Lent), today the Greek Orthodox Church allows people to consume fish, oil, and wine and families gather after church to eat a seafood lunch.
Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday
From Holy Monday, the churches’ chandeliers and icons are covered in black and purple material, highlighting the atmosphere of mourning for the coming crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ. Church services typically take place in the morning and evening of Holy Week.
Holy Monday is dedicated to two events: The life of Joseph, son of Patriarch Jacob, and the adventures of whom reflect the life of Christ and his sufferings. It is also dedicated to the story of the fruitless fig tree that Christ dried, with the fig tree symbolizing the soul of every human who lacks virtue.
Holy Tuesday is dedicated to the parable of the ten virgins which aims to teach people to be full of faith and charity, as well as the parable of ‘Taladwn’, which aims to teach people to be hardworking and cultivate their spirituality.
Holy Wednesday is dedicated to Mary Magdalene, who regretted her life of sin, washed Christ’s feet with myrrh, and was forgiven because of her strong faith.
On Holy Thursday, Christianity celebrates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the twelve Apostles. In commemoration of this very important day, on Holy Thursday the preparations for Jesus Christ’s resurrection are underway in Greek households. According to tradition, people bake their koulourakia and lamprokouloura (Greek cookies), Tsourekia (Greek brioche), and traditional dye hard-boiled eggs, which symbolize the renewal of life since antiquity, while the colour red symbolizes Christ’s blood.
On Good Friday you will hear church bells ring all day for the funeral of Jesus Christ. The Bible said that He died in the ninth hour, and at nine o´clock in the evening, Greeks follow a symbolic funeral procession. Many people participate in the quiet procession while carrying candles and the experience overall is quite solemn. Each church carries an Epitaphios (a wooden canopied bier representing the tomb of Christ) covered with flowers of various colours. People follow along the streets of cities, towns, and villages listening to psalms being chanted. This is a day of mourning and the strictest day of fasting, with many people consuming very little food on Good Friday.
Many people receive their Holy Communion during Saturday morning’s church service. When they return home, preparations begin for the festive dinner that is served after the Resurrection Midnight Mass. Magiritsa soup is a traditional dish prepared in most Greek houses (made with offal and finished in a lemon sauce). Before midnight, people gather in church holding candles, which they light with the “Holy Light” offered by the priest. Children hold their Lambades (candles) traditionally given to them by their godparents during Holy Week and join in on the midnight service. The Resurrection of Christ is celebrated when the clock strikes Midnight with drum beats and fireworks lighting the skies as the church bells ring and chanters begin the hymn ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ is Risen), this is also chanted by all who attend. People then return home to gather around the dinner table and break their fast; this is when they crack their red eggs and say “Christos Anesti”.
Easter Sunday is a huge celebration in Greece, as the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates Jesus rising from the dead. In many parts of the country, lamb is skewered and cooked over charcoal. In other regions, the meat for the Easter table is roasted in the oven. The atmosphere is festive and joyous and people listen and dance to local folk music. And if you are lucky enough to be in Greece during Easter, don’t miss one of the local festivals taking place, as this experience is unforgettable.
Easter celebrations take place all over Greece; some of the most famous destinations to celebrate Easter in Greece are Corfu, Patmos, Kalamata, and Kalymnos.
Today the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates “Saturday of Lazarus” and on this day it’s a tradition in Greece to make Lazarakia (Little Lazaruses).
These are traditionally small, sweet and mildly spiced bread, made only once a year. They represent the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Each region in Greece has its own variation of Lazarakia, however, most have a similar sweet-tasting flavour.
1 x kg of plain flour
2 & 1/2 x cups of lukewarm water + extra for the kneading
1/4 x cups of granulated sugar
1/4 x cup of olive oil
1 x cup of dark raisins (optional)
3/4 x cup of finely chopped walnuts (optional)
14 x grams dried yeast
3 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of ground cloves
whole cloves to decorate
Preheat the oven to 200°C and place baking paper on a few trays.
Dissolve the yeast in a glass filled with lukewarm water and set aside.
Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Fill it with the sugar, the olive oil and dissolved yeast.
Start kneading the ingredients with your hands, slowly adding two and a half cups of lukewarm water, just enough until you have a relatively firm dough. Then add the spices, the raisins and the walnuts and continue kneading thoroughly until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands.
Place dough into the bowl, cover with towel and allow dough to rise and double (about an hour).
Get quantities of the dough and cut it into small pieces. Start to shape each piece into small men. Shape separately the hands and the body (see photo above). Form eyes, with the tip of a clove.
Transfer each piece of bread onto oven trays, cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise for 1 hour.
Brush Lazarakia with some oil for a glossy effect and place trays in the middle shelf of the oven. Bake until they are nicely golden.
Take out of the oven and allow to cool on metal racks before serving.
Fluffy, doughy, and semi-sweet Tsoureki can be found and enjoyed throughout the year but is traditionally an Easter staple, kneaded on Holy Thursday, the same day when eggs are dyed red (and often a red egg is placed in the centre of the tsoureki).
A wonderful Tsoureki is not easy to make at home, although its ingredients – flour, milk, yeast, eggs, sugar, butter, and for some, aromatic additions like mastic or mahlepi – are simple enough. A fabulous tsoureki is a wonderful gift for any household, and here we reveal nine bakeries in Athens selling the tastiest and most revered tsourekia.
Unlike most historical establishments in Athens, this classic patisserie hasn’t dramatically changed its products or decor in decades. What’s more, they make an airy tsoureki with a rich dough inspired by an Austrian recipe with some influences from France.
A: 5 Kassaveti, Kifissia
Well known for their tsoureki, made with quality ingredients, this recipe is deeply inspired by the owner’s family roots in Asia Minor.
A: 2 Ilision & 4 Nymphaion, Ilissia
Since 1967, the bakery makes a tsoureki with a rich mastic and butter taste. You can also find the “indulgent” chocolate-filled version.
Not very fluffy but with a depth of flavour, the tsoureki sold here is inspired by Asia Minor and made with mastic, mahlepi and creamy butter. You can also find tsoureki stuffed with chocolate, caramelized almonds, wild cherry and orange-raisin.
Since 1908 this famous Thessaloniki bakery has been making tsoureki that is much talked about. It’s elastic, but not too thick or chewy. You can find a plain version or one with chestnut cream and either a white or dark chocolate topping.
A: 5 Mitropoleos, Syntagma
Here you’ll find not one or two but eight types of tsoureki, with all kinds of indulgent fillings, including dark chocolate chunks and orange and patisserie cream.
Last but not least, Greece’s most famous Tsoureki house Terkenlis, which originated in Thessaloniki, is a must. From traditional brioche to ones coated with dark chocolate, white chocolate, and others filled with cream; there are also vegan options available here. P.S. We recommend you try the Oreo Greek brioche!
A: The Mall, 35 Andrea Papandreou Street, Marousi; Golden Hall, 37AL Kifisias St, Marousi; 100- 102 Papanikoli St, Chalandri
Tomorrow, March 25, 2021, marks an incredibly special day, as Greece celebrates its 200th Anniversary of Independence.
On March 25 every year in Greece and among the diaspora, Greek Independence Day is commemorated with parades, ceremonies and celebrations- marking the country’s Revolution of 1821, against Ottoman rule.
Celebrations may be different this year, with many events being cancelled due to restrictions, however, this historic moment is nonetheless just as important for Greece and will be honoured not only here but worldwide, as iconic landmarks across the globe are set to illuminate in blue and white.
The year 2021 marks the bicentenary since the start of the Greek Struggle for Independence, which is a huge milestone.
Festivities in Greece
March 25 is usually celebrated with rich Greek traditions and culture, including festivals with folk music, dancing and national costumes paraded around the country. From main cities to remote villages, locals celebrate this day with food and wine, with the traditional dish of the day being Bakaliaros Skordalias (fried salty cod with potato and garlic mash), which is made and served at festivals, taverns and family gatherings.
Due to the country’s current restrictions, usual parades for the general public will not take place, however, a few very special events will mark the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence, starting from this evening, March 24. This will include a reception at the newly re-opened National Gallery of Greece with special guests given a tour of the gallery. On Thursday, Greek Independence Day, soprano Anastasia Zannis will sing the national anthem as the Greek flag is hoisted at the Acropolis site in the morning. A liturgy will follow at Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, before a wreath-laying ceremony at the Unknown Soldier Monument at Syntagma Square.
An impressive traditional military parade will then take place in the centre of Athens and will be attended by official guests; including foreign dignitaries and royals from the UK.
Greeks worldwide celebrate the 25th of March as a double holiday- marking both a historical and religious occasion.
On this day, Greece commemorates the War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, which led to the country’s liberation; and the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Annunciation of Theotokos, where Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary she would become the mother of Jesus Christ.
The country marks this double celebration with a special dish named “Bakaliaros Skordalia” which is codfish and mash potato with a garlic sauce.
It is a custom across the country on this day is to eat crispy, fried cod, which needs some preparation from the day ahead.
Happy Greek Independence Day!
For the cod
1/2 kilogram boneless, dry salted cod
1 x cup all-purpose flour
pepper to taste
oil for frying
lemon and parsley to garnish (optional)
Method for Bakaliaro
Cut the dry cod into pieces. Soak in cool water, and keep in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Remove cod from the water and dry on a paper towel.
Season the flour with pepper and coat the cod pieces with the flour.
Add oil to a frying pan and allow to heat. When the oil is hot place cod and fry over medium heat. Turn cod over a few times to cook evenly and until it’s golden brown. Roughly 17 minutes.
Remove the cod from the frying pan and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up some of the excess oil.
For the skordalia
5 x potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
2 x garlic cloves
1/3 cup x red wine vinegar
1/3 x cup lemon juice
1 cup oil
Method for the Skordalia
Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and when the water has boiled add the potatoes.
Boil until they are soft, approximately 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are boiling, prepare your garlic. Peel the garlic and grate.
When the potatoes have boiled, drain and keep about a cup of stock.
Allow potatoes to slightly cool.
Place potatoes in a large bowl and mash.
Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, and grated garlic in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well combined.
Pour the marinade over the mashed potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Mix until smooth. Pour potato stock into the mashed potatoes to thin the dip to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Today is a very significant day in Greece as it’s Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday) and the start of Sarakosti, the Great Lent period before Greek Easter.
Kathara Deftera marks the beginning of abstaining from all meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. The traditional foods for today are calamari, octopus, prawns, olives, taramosalata, skordalia, and Lagana, which is a specially-made flat bread; that is only consumed on Clean Monday. With a sesame seed crust and a soft, airy inside, this recipe includes olive oil, however, those observing a strict fast can omit the oil.
The quantities below are for four large loaves- halve or double if you would like to make less/more.
– 1 kilo of all-purpose flour
– 18 grams dry yeast
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– sesame seeds for sprinkling
– 700 grams of lukewarm water
– Place the flour, yeast, and sugar in a big bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
– Make a well in the centre and place olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of water and mix thoroughly with your hands.
– Add the third cup slowly and kneed mixture with your hands, until it becomes a smooth-like dough.
– Shape the dough into a ball, brush it lightly with olive oil and allow it to rise in a covered bowl for about 40 minutes.
– When ready, place the dough on your workbench, dusted with flour, and knead the dough again for another 5 minutes.
– Cut into 4 pieces.
– Place on lightly oiled baking sheets and shape into rectangular or oval loaves.
– Place on a baking tray and brush lightly with olive oil.
– Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
– Place in 200 degrees C oven and allow to bake for 30 minutes or until bread is golden brown.
For meat-lovers, there’s no better day to be in Greece than during the celebration of Tsiknopempti, a special day commemorated every year throughout the country, where Greeks grill and enjoy their favourite meat dishes before entering Easter lent.
The holiday is a part of the Greek Carnival celebrations and signals the start of the last weekend before Sarakosti (40 days of fasting for Easter Lent). It takes place today eleven days before the start of Greek Orthodox Lent, Clean Monday.
What does Tsinopemto mean?
Tsiknopempti comes from the word ‘tsikna’, which refers to the smell of cooked or roasted meat, and ‘pempti’, Thursday. It is said that Thursday was chosen by the Greek Orthodox church as traditionally, Wednesday and Friday are considered days of fasting.
Traditions of Tsiknopempti
People all around Greece today prepare and enjoy their most loved meat dishes for Tsiknopempti, which gives it one of its other common names: Smoky Thursday. Most of these meat dishes are grilled on the bbq.
It’s also a popular day for going out to eat and enjoying as many different meats as possible. Most taverns and restaurants serve a special range of meat dishes today and the smell of smoke is in the air on every street corner. If you happen to be in Greece during this time, you will see barbecue grills set up in the streets in front of homes, tavernas, cafes, and restaurants.
Traditional Tsiknopempti Dishes
The most popular meat is of course souvlaki (skewered meat), but there are also BBQ sausages, steaks, chops, kontosouvli and the meat is a range of pork, beef, chicken, veal, and goat.