Greek Independence Day Parade History

The Greek flag-raising ceremony at Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan took place under sunny skies with the Evzones participating. (Photo by TNH/Costas Bej)

NEW YORK – Greek Independence Day is celebrated everywhere Greeks reside, across the globe. Parades have been a part of the commemoration since the first part of the 20th century in the United States. Towns and villages throughout Greece hold parades with schoolchildren marching in traditional costume and waving Greek flags.

The armed forces parade in Athens is also held annually to commemorate Greek Independence. The history of the parade in the U.S. could easily fill the pages of a book since it follows the rich history of the Greek community. While parades have been held in many U.S. cities over the years, some of the most popular annual parades are held in New York, Chicago, Boston, Tarpon Springs, Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

The celebration of pride in our Greek heritage, history, faith, and language, along with the memories shared by family and friends lasts a lifetime.

The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York held the first Greek Parade in 1938, but it wasn’t until 1951 that the Blue and White was seen waving proudly up Fifth Avenue. The Evzones first marched in the parade in 1949 and the oldest Evzone from that historic moment currently resides in Pennsylvania and is 90 years old.

The Greek flag-raising ceremony at Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan took place under sunny skies with the Evzones participating. (Photo by TNH/Costas Bej)

According to TimeOut magazine, New York’s parade draws the largest gathering of Greeks outside of the motherland. With thousands marching and thousands watching, the parade is the culmination of the tremendous efforts by the Federation every year. With so many pre- and post-parade events, the celebration of Greek Independence is much more than just the parade itself.

Chicago’s first Greek Independence Parade was held in 1965, and as many Chicagoans will attest, it was a city-wide celebration with the route on State Street and Wacker Drive to the Eisenhower Expressway. In the spirit of the 60’s, the 1969 parade featured protesters carrying anti-junta signs. As the years went on, the parade grew and continued the march through downtown into the 1990s. By the mid-90s, the parade was moved to Greektown’s Halsted Street where it continues today.

Marchers waved the blue and white flag of Greece in Philadelphia during the Greek Independence Day parade. Photo by Costa Bej

The original Detroit Greek Parade began during World War II to raise money for war bonds for Greece, an important American ally in the fight against Fascism. The parade continued annually until the late 1960’s. Detroit’s Greek community decided to revive the parade and formed their current parade committee in 2000. An indoor celebration at the International Center in Greektown was held by the parade committee in 2001. The “resurrected” Detroit Greek Parade was held in 2002 and annually ever since.

The Boston Greek Independence Day Parade began in 1994. The 24th Boston Parade marches on Boylston Street from Prudential Tower to Charles Street and the celebration continues immediately following the Parade at the Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common with Greek folk dance performances, vendors and exhibitors, food, music, and children’s events.

FILE – The Evzones led off the Chicago Greek Independence Parade. Photo by John Ackerman